Defeating Outgoing and Quartering Targets - Part I
Defeating Outgoing and Quartering Targets - Part I
High Two and Low Six at Skeet
Some shooters consider High Two and Low Six in skeet, or any fast-moving, quartering-angle shot, to be some of the more difficult shots in the field. But these shots only become difficult after a breakdown of proper fundamentals. What is critical is your first, initial move needs to be the right move, because there is no time for recovery. The key to these shots, or any outgoing or quarter-angle shot, is not only a good physical setup, but more importantly, good visual acquisition and then maintaining that vision on the target through the completion of the shot.
Because of the structure of a skeet field, we will use skeet as a tool to represent the execution of the fundamentals on these shots, but these fundamentals would apply across the board to all clay-target disciplines.
A shooter’s foot position can play a major role in that shooter’s ability or inability to move on a particular target. Obviously, if I stand and face in a certain direction, then turn my body at the waist, one way, then the other, I will find I have limits. I can only turn so far to the right and also have limits to the left. It is the way the human body is built. Although elementary, this standing demonstration illustrates the human body has limits as to what it can do and to the degree it can do it.
Although other factors may apply, many mistakes can be directly or indirectly related to poor foot position. Improper foot position limits our turning radius to a point it stops our gun movement before the shot is taken. Proper foot position on a skeet field for right-handed shooters is to face the Low House window. The High House window is for the left-handed shooter. This allows the shooter’s turning radius to turn easily within the radius of the shot.
When our physical radius of turn does not match the radius of the shot, or we reach a limit, our ability to turn nears zero, and the gun slows. The brain orders the body to compensate by using the arms and shoulders to push the gun past the restrictive limit. This is a last-ditch effort to make the shot. However, by using the upper body to move the gun, a movement that is limited, we will “come out of the gun” by pushing it away from our face. In the process, or at the end of the push, we will stop the gun because pushing the gun with the arms renders a very finite movement. Since upper body movement with the arms is limited, the shoulders roll to aid the “push”, because lower body movement has been restricted.
Initially, two bad things happen as the arms “push” the gun. First, using the arms to move the gun is a very limited move. The arms push in at point A to point B fashion. This move is very linear, so it is difficult to rotate smoothly and match gun speed with target speed for any sustained period of time. Secondly, as the arms push or “throw” the gun to the target, the head will invariably come off the stock. Just the act of moving to the target commences the pushing of the gun away from the face, which in essence, is raising the head.
These are all critical factors for fast outgoing or quartering-angle shots where, again, there is little time for recovery.
The hold points for High Two and Low Six are the two most critical hold positions on the field. This is because the first move onto the target needs to be the right move since these two targets move away from the shooter at a rapid pace. The standard hold point for almost all shots on a skeet field is one-third of the way from the house you are shooting to the center stake. This distance is 21 yards, so one-third is 21 feet. To find the hold point, I find a line straight out perpendicular to the baseline from the front corner of the pad furthest from the house you are shooting. From this straight-out position, I then move the gun 3' to the right on the target flight path towards the center stake.
“One-third” of the distance from the house we are shooting to the center stake is a very general, but also very constant part of this game. However, because the hold point for High Two and Low Six are so critical, I find I can be more precise by finding “straight out” and then moving 3' to the right. It is more precise than if I estimated “one-third” from those positions.
This hold point, especially for sustained lead shooters, is critical because given normal human reaction time, anytime the gun is held closer to the High House than the “one-third” distance, the result is a High Two that beats the shooter, causing unneeded acceleration of the gun and a generally uncontrolled shot.
More important than the lateral positioning of the gun at High Two is the height or elevation of the hold point on this target. More High Two’s are missed because of hold points being too high than for any other reason. If the gun is held at an elevation equal to that of the target flight path, as the target passes close to or through the barrel, vision is limited, and vision is the key to this shot. I am more conscious of the window and its elevation here than at any other position on the field.
However, Low Six and additionally Low Five are the only two shots on the field where I hold level with the top of the window. Just as was done at Low Five, the elevation of the hold point will “rise” to the top of the window. The angle in which the target flies, relative to the shooter, eliminates any need for the gun to be held lower than this point. A hold point lower than the top of the window would in most cases not increase vision, but only require more gun movement to the target, making a smooth and timely shot more difficult.
After establishing foot position and a proper hold point, the next concern is where to look for this target. Visual acquisition is the key to these targets, so eye placement is very important. I have found I can look just off the left of the barrel toward High Two and pick up this target well using my peripheral vision. I have often joked I would not want to look back in the window on this shot, because what I would see would scare the heck out of me. This is because I would see something very fast and out of focus. The only thing I would know is the target is way ahead of me, before I could ever begin to generate gun movement.
There is medical research that supports this. Joan Vickers, Mother of Sports Vision research, says the human eye cannot track anything moving faster than 150 degrees per second. I haven’t done the math, but I'm pretty sure from Stations Two and Six, the out-goers in the first 10' to 15' of target flight are moving faster than 150 degrees per second.
So I don’t waste my primary vision or focus looking in an area where I can’t possibly see the target with clear focus. Some may find there is a necessity to look back further, but you should never look back further than half the distance between the gun and the house. Again, this would result in the target rushing past the eyes, requiring excessive eye movement to reacquire the target and generate a sight picture. Be aware even though I am looking in a certain direction, off to the left of the barrel, I am very conscious of what is happening in my peripheral vision. By looking off the barrel slightly, I can use my peripheral vision to see the streak or flash when the target appears as it leaves the mouth of the window. As the target gets to my barrel, I’ve had the ability to focus on it and actually move with the target, simultaneously obtaining a sustained lead.
The break point for High Two and Low Six should be in a zone about 20' before the center stake to the center stake. A shot past the center of the field indicates issues in acquiring the target visually or the unwanted action of “riding” or measuring of the target. Any shot executed earlier than 20' before the center stake is too quick and may force the shooter to “slap” at the target with the gun or “spot shoot”, both of which are undesirable movements.
Lead on these targets is about 6" to 12". However, High Two and Low Six are the only two shots on the skeet field where I never have a definite sight picture in mind. Question me about the leads I use on any other shots on the field, and I can give a very definitive answer as to what I see, and, generally speaking, I will use a very precise picture in my execution of the shots. But I am not allowed the time to be particular about lead given the timing of this shot. My greatest concern is to obtain a good clear focus on the target. Some shooters will say they see no lead on High Two or Low Six, but if those statements were indeed true, then the “no lead” is a perceived lead, as they actually “swing-through” the target with excess gun speed.
These are the correct setup fundamentals for these out-goers. Although there are other approaches, few will yield the consistency desired.
Next month, in Part 2 of Defeating Outgoing or Quartering Targets, we will address the visual errors that create problems and their corrections. SS
Todd Bender has been performing at the highest levels of the skeet game for nearly 40 years. Here are a few of his achievements: Highest HOA in the history of the sport .9972; 24 Open NSSA World Championships; NSSA World Championships (2007, 2008, 2009) shot perfect scores of 550x550. In 1987 Todd was the first shooter ever to shoot three consecutive 400x400s and the only shooter to do it twice- 400x400, 400x400, 550x550 (1991) and the NSSA Men’s All-American First Team 35 consecutive times. Todd maintains a hectic travel schedule around the world with his shooting clinics and tournament schedule. He has been writing for Shotgun Sports since 2005. Todd’s instructional DVDs are available on page 53 in this issue. For information about Todd Bender Performance and for Todd’s 2018 Clinic Schedule, go to the Clinic Schedule Page at toddbenderintl.com or contact Todd Bender at firstname.lastname@example.org. For Todd’s newest videos on skeet shooting, contact Sunrise Productions at sunrisevideo.com. Any use or reproduction of this article or any content without the written consent of Todd Bender is prohibited.