Bouncing bunnies have been known to zip across the terrain, hop, skip and jump. It is this unpredictability that makes the rabbit target a problematic one for many people. In this first issue of Lieske’s Target Tactics, we’ll discuss some tips and tricks to executing the perfect shot on that rascally rabbit.
According to Pat, “people tend to misread the rabbit, particularly those on the ground, because rabbits appears faster than their true speed.” It is an optical illusion caused by their motion across a fluctuating background. In addition, due to rabbits being “flatter and thicker than your standard clay,” the force of friction tends to slow the rabbit faster than your typical 108mm.
For these reasons, people tend to shoot in front of rabbits. To avoid shooting in front of the rabbit, Pat advocates that you tackle the rabbit with a slow, controlled move. The slow and steady tortoise thumps the hare, right? One tool that Pat employs to slow down the perceived speed of the rabbit is to focus on the center or, for an exceedingly slow or close rabbit, the back-edge. Doing this will help you to control the rabbit by synchronizing the speed of your muzzle with the speed of the target. Pat claims that “most people see the rabbit in slow motion when they shift their visual focus from the front half to the back half.”
You might also try altering the technique that you use to acquire lead on rabbits. If you typically use maintained lead, for example, try a smooth pass-through. Pat states that “there is nothing wrong with letting the target meet the muzzle and then gently pushing to the front edge and pulling the trigger.” Letting the rabbit come to the gun before you start your move will help you to find that connection.
If you’ve tried the aforementioned tips and you are still missing rabbits, you are undoubtedly lifting your head. It is easy to lift your head on low targets, the rabbit especially. Keep notice of your cheek pressure and head position on rabbits compared to targets that you consider to be in your wheelhouse. If you notice inconsistencies in the way you finish the shot on the rabbit, make a conscious effort to be homogeneous. One crafty way to subconsciously keep your head down is to “focus on keeping the eyes steady and level throughout the shot.”
Every once in a while, you are bound to encounter a rabbit target in the air. Lieske recommends you use many of the same tips mentioned above for the flying bunny. Technically speaking, the airborne rabbit should be addressed like a chandelle, which is generally best broken near the top of its flight path. “Most times, I think the best spot to shoot a chandelle, whether it’s quartering or crossing, is just before it gets to the peak, because it has a fairly steady line for a period of time.” With a chandelle’s complex flight path, an inexperienced shooter will often try to follow the arc of the bird, usually with disastrous results. Pick a spot and commit.
Before we part ways on this first issue of Lieske’s Target Tactics, I’d like to mention a common mental mistake that shooters typically make when shooting rabbits. Attempting to judge one’s shot on a rabbit by looking at the debris is a major gaffe made by way too many shooters. Lieske advises that watching the commotion of the debris – like dirt and dust – often misleads the shooter. “It is all too common for a shooter to think that they shot behind a rabbit when in reality they shot in front and the target has rolled through the debris.” You are more likely to make a wrong inference or an over-correction by trying to adjust lead based on debris. Focus on your technique and your subconscious mind will do the rest!
About the Author: Drew Lieske is the oldest son of Michigan Shooting Centers’ founder, Pat Lieske, and the Director of Sales for Michigan Shooting Centers. He started competing in sporting clays at age 12 and by 15 became Michigan’s youngest ever Master class shotgun shooter. Drew is an 8-time NSCA All-American and a member of the Kolar Arms pro team. Drew can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.