These three girls participated in a youth hunt put on by the local Pheasants Forever* chapter last weekend during Iowa’s two-day Youth Pheasant Season. I try to help out with the shooting instruction at events like these whenever I can.

All three shoot for a local high school trap team – not the one I coach, unfortunately – so they could shoot. What they couldn’t do as well was get their guns mounted in time to take a shot. Most trap shooters put their guns into their shoulders first, then lower the muzzle, then wiggle their faces down onto the comb and then pick their eyes up off the gun and start looking for the target. By the time you get that done the clay has passed its peak and is falling at about 50 yards where it’s very difficult to hit. A real bird is gone in half the time it takes to do all that.

We practiced holding the gun in a ready position, with the butt under the arm and the muzzle slightly above horizontal. When I pulled the target they had to take off the safety, bring the gun up to their face first, then put the butt in their shoulder and shoot the target. Once they got the hang of it they could shoot fast without rushing. As you can see in the picture, two of the three filled their one-bird limit and I’d have bet money on the third girl, who was the smoothest field-style shooter of the group.

Trap gets a bad rap as poor practice for field shooting. I think it’s actually great practice for flushing birds because the unknown angles and going away flight of trap targets mimics the flight of upland birds over dogs. Back when I shot only trap and pheasants, I was a better shot at flushing game than I am today. There is an adjustment to make, however, before you can make full use of your trap skills in the field.

You can shoot trap low gun if you wish, but your scores will suffer. I compromise by concentrating on making a good field-style mount, then calling for the bird instead of going through all the gyrations of a serious trapshooter. That way I get in 25 good gun mount repetitions per round no matter how many targets I hit or miss.

*Because I started out as a pheasant hunter, Pheasants Forever is my favorite of the single-species conservation organizations. They spend a lot of money locally, letting chapters keep and spend all the money they raise, and they also help fight the important battles in Washington, D.C.