Sharpen Your Shotgun Skills for Dove Season with Low Gun Skeet

It's less than three months until dove season and now is the time to start practicing.

There are a few people who don't need much practice. They are the lucky ones who shoot so much during each season that they can fish or golf all summer, then pick right up where they left off when the season starts again. Most of us don't fall into that category. I certainly don't--so instead of fishing or playing golf, I shoot low-gun skeet.

Any shooting is beneficial if you practice good technique, but the skeet field is the very best place to sharpen your wingshooting skills.

I was very good at upland birds when I shot only trap, but was pretty worthless at doves and waterfowl because all the targets are going away. The other problem with trap is that it's possible to do a lot of things wrong (stand funny, hold the shotgun like a rifle, shut one eye and aim at the target, for instance) and still shoot decent trap scores. That's fine for your league standings, but it won't help you much in the field.

Sporting Clays is great practice but it costs a lot, takes a long time to shoot, and it can't be shot at night.

Unless you can get very creative, most backyard traps only give you going away shots--way better than no practice at all, but it won't get you ready for crossing targets.

That leaves skeet, which was, after all, invented by grouse hunters as an off-season practice game. Start now and shoot a couple of rounds of skeet a week from a low-gun start and you will be ready for doves and ducks. The low-gun start sharpens your gun mounting skills and you will get plenty of practice learning to lead targets by a mile on stations 3, 4, and 5.

Andy Duffy, the sporting clays shooter, told me once he shot lots of skeet to get ready for sporting clays tournaments.

"A lot of people practice the hard sporting targets," he said. "I don't. I shoot skeet because it's good practice but it's easy enough to shoot good scores. Seeing targets shatter builds my confidence."

You can shoot your hunting gun if you want to. Skeet and improved cylinder chokes work best as all the targets are within 25 yards or so and some are just a few feet off the muzzle. Any gauge works; just be sure not to bring your hunting loads to the gun club (I have seen once-a-year shooters bring steel BBs to the skeet field which is not a safe idea) and use shot sizes 7 ½ or smaller.

Also, skeet shooters tend to be a friendly group, in my experience. If you haven't shot the game before, most will be more than happy to help you learn the game.