June 21, 2011
Shotgun Tip: Precise Focus on the Bird Solves Most Shooting Problems
By Phil Bourjaily
Take a look at this picture of Jon Michael McGrath, one of Team USA’s best international skeet shooters. Note the intensity on his face and the eyes wide open behind the lenses of his glasses.
When the target emerges Jon Michael will focus his eyesight not just on the clay, but on the front edge of it. Chances are extremely high his shot will reduce the target to very small pieces. Shooters like McGrath have great eye-hand coordination, but they also develop the mental ability to focus hard on every target.
Precise focus on the bird solves most shotgun shooting problems on the range and in the field.
I see this all the time with the kids who shoot on our high school trap team. A lot of them are pretty good shots when they start and ATA trap targets are slow and easy. They can break scores of 19 or 20 without focusing 100% on the target. They will shoot those scores forever and not get any better until they learn to be more precise and more intense in their focus on every single bird.
It’s easy to tell when someone isn’t looking hard at a trap target: they miss over the top. I usually tell our kids not to look at the whole target but to focus on the ring around the bottom. When they do, they start center-punching them. Then the challenge becomes bringing that level of focus to every shot.
If you’re having a hard time hitting, before you start changing leads or choke tubes or whatever, first try looking harder at the leading edge of the target. Think only about focus and let your eyes tell your hands where to point the gun. I remember reading an interview with trap champion Dan Bonillas.
His description of focus: “I keep my eyes in the expected target area. Once I see the target, I narrow my vision as if pulling a draw string on a duffle bag.” The tighter you pull the string, the harder the target will break.