"A DAY WITH THE BOYS" by Luke Clayton Luke Clayton Hitting a fast moving target, be it made of clay or feathers, is a daunting task that has challenged shotgunners since the day someone first discovered that lead pellets pushed by a charge of powder was the proper means for shooting flying targets. Ive been shooting scatterguns for fifty years and can truly state that I still dont have it figured out. The concept is simple; begin your shotgun swing behind the bird or clay target, push the barrel past the moving target so that the shot column and target arrive at the same place at the same time. Sounds easy, doesnt it? The application of this concept makes shooting a shotgun one of the most challenging and fun of all the shooting sports. It can be a bit frustrating as well, at least until one develops the correct mindset! Shooting a shotgun well, just like mastering the game of golf or, checkers for that matter, requires practice. My friend Evelyn Cooper has spent the time in practice and, thanks to being blessed with excellent hand to eye coordination, shes as good at breaking clay targets as anyone Ive watched shoot. Evelyn manages the W.B. Ranch, situated on the Banks of the Brazos, a few miles below the spillway at Lake Whitney. The ranch offers a smorgasbord of activities that include upland bird hunts and fishing in the Brazos River. There is also a world class sporting clays course that has stations that sometimes seem almost too easy and others that will leave you scratching your head and pondering on the age old question of just how fast was that target moving and did I shoot ahead or behind it? Ive bird hunted at the W.B. Ranch for several years and done my share of fishing for bass and catfish in the stretch of Brazos that serves as a boundary for the ranch. Recently, my 5 grandsons, aged 5-10, their dads and one of their other Grand Pas spent several hours at the ranch, breaking the youngsters into the sport of shooting clay targets. I shoot from my left shoulder and am right eye dominant. Ive tried to learn to keep both eyes open while swinging on a bird or clay and even had Evelyn, a certified shotgunning instructor, attempt to help me rectify this problem, but to no avail. As she once told me Luke, youre a pretty good shot as is, youve been shooting with one eye closed for forty years, so why change now! I thought it best we get some expert advice to help get the boys off to a good start. Regardless which of the shooting sports a kid, or adult for that matter, is learning, safety is always first. Evelyn lined the youngsters up and, took one of the over and under 20 gauges, broke it open and instructed her charges to always keep the action open when not actually shooting. If you keep the guns action open, everyone nearby can see at a glance that your shotgun is safe. Always keep the barrel pointed in a safe direction, regardless whether you think the shotgun is loaded or not. The boys were also shooting an autoloader and she opened the action and repeated the safety lesson. Next, she actually broke a clay target or two so the kids could get a visual on their objective. She chose one of the easier stations to begin their training, teaching them to yell pull, and then track the clay target from behind, and jerk the trigger when the sight picture was correct. When to actually pull the trigger is something that has to be learned through practice. Evelyn gave a crash course in how to lead crossing, going away and incoming targets. Each require a different lead and although words can describe the basic concept, practice is the only way to master all the mechanics that leads to a well executed shot. Photo by Luke Clayton Soon, Evelyn had the boys banging away at crossing targets and we were all surprised at just how quickly they caught on. Watching first time shooters swing and shoot a shotgun makes me wonder if were not all born with the innate ability to hit a moving target, maybe the ability to do so is ingrained into our DNA from eons past when our ancestors had to bring down their dinner with a well executed throw of a rock! From the get-go, the boys were hitting about half the targets they shot at. Granted, their instructor started them on the easier stations but we watched them make some shots that were much more challenging on some of the more difficult stations. They especially enjoyed the running rabbit station where a clay target hops and skips across the ground, about 30 yards in from of the station. The boys named this station the bunny shot and we were convinced they would never have left the station, had we not forced them to move on to the other stations. A couple hours later, and many spent shotgun shells, we called it a day. Im convinced the boys could have kept banging away at the clays the remainder of the afternoon. But we were thinking of their shoulders the next day and wanted this to remain a positive experience. After a great lunch back at the lodge, we took the boys on a tour of the ranch. They saw whitetail deer and several exotics and we stopped the vehicle on Beverlys Bluff, a very tranquil, remote bluff situated along the river near the back of the ranch. Kids this age talk nonstop and we asked them to sit down near the edge of the bluff and be quiet for a minute. I wanted them to soak up the sounds of nature. What do you hear? I quizzed after I felt they were pushing their quietness curfew to the limit. Nothing, Gramps was the reply. Listen some more. Now, what do you hear, boys? Then the boys responded with the answers we were waiting for. A bird, running water, wind in the trees, etc. etc. They were definitely learning what spending time in the outdoors is all about! For more information about the sporting clays course or upland bird shooting at the W.B. Ranch, go online to www.wbranch.com or call 800-WBRANCH. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ OUTDOOR TIP OF THE WEEK - Duck season is a done deal but the conservation season for snow geese begins soon. Consider booking a late season goose hunt during a period when unplugged shotguns, electronic callers and extended shooting hours are allowed. These gregarious birds will begin their northern migration, usually around the end of February and its up to hunters to keep their numbers under control. In years past, the overabundant snow geese have decimated areas of their Alaskan and Canadian breeding grounds, thus the reason for this special conservation season. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ TAWAKONI CATFISH TOURNAMENT - The Cabellas King Kat Tournament will be held at Lake Tawakoni Feb. 28, 6:30 am - 3:00 pm., headquarters at the West Tawakoni City Park. Entry fee per team is $200. For more information, call 270-395-6774 or online at www.kingkatusa.com. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Listen to Outdoors With Luke Clayton at www.catfishradio.com and check out the new fishing videos at lukeshotspots.com The BOC has a virtual library of Luke's stories right here on the forums; just about anything you could want to read about the outdoors. Click here to see a boat load of information!