Whether you are new to sporting clays or at the top of your game, you’ve likely had the teal target eat your lunch. The springing teal can be petrifying, but why?
At close distances, the teal is everyone’s favorite target. Its vertical trajectory displays the target’s full face or full belly. It’s like a garbage can lid; how could you possibly miss?
Add distance, speed and height to the mix and the teal quickly evolves from the target you can’t miss to the one that’s got your number. The chances are it’s the high, fast and bloody far away teal that has you flummoxed. Like any target, solid technique is the key to consistently crushing the teal clay.
No one strategy will work for every teal. You must analyze each teal you encounter with a plan that best suits your skill and style.
For most teal, Pat suggests the use maintained lead. For Pat, this means “watching the target behind the gun from the time I call pull to the moment the target breaks.” Given the teal’s typical trajectory, this ordinarily means watching it underneath the barrel.
Maintain the lead throughout the entire duration of the shot will help to connect your muzzle to the motion of the target. One easy way to ensure you do this properly is to ask yourself, “if I pull the trigger at any moment during the mount, will I break the target?” The answer to this question should be yes. That’s not to say that this will happen every time, as even Pat notes that this does not always happen. Nonetheless, trying to be in the right spot throughout the whole mount will give your mind the feedback it needs to be there when you pull the trigger.
If a teal target is primarily show the edge, also known as the rim, change your technique to pull-away or try gentle swing-through. Edgy targets are much harder to read. Pat feels that he can better connect with an edgy teal by “inserting the muzzle on the back edge and gently pulling through.” This will help you to better establish the line and to create the connection you need.
If you are a one-eyed shooter, it is likely that you have the same issue on the teal as you did with the driven target, the topic of last issue’s Target Tactics. If you find yourself losing sight of teal as you mount, you should try pull-away or swing-through regardless of whether the target is full-face or full-edge.
Before thinking about the amount of perceived lead needed to break the teal, you should consider the direction of the lead. Do this by visualizing the face of an analog clock – you know, one of those old school timepieces that actual has numerals on it. Determine what digit or time the target would exit the clock face at your break point. That is the part of the target that you should be focusing on. If it is going straight up, it’s a 12:00 teal. If it tails to the left, it’s a 10:00 teal.
Now that you’ve determined the line of flight, use Pat’s systematic approach to determining how far in front to insert the muzzle. This approach depends on three variables: angle, speed and distance. These three components are listed in order of significance to forward allowance. The amount of lead is most dependent on angle. The more angle a target has, the more lead it will need.
This part of your planning should not be something that you do at the least moment, just before you call for the target. Make your plan before you step into the cage and re-inforce it before each pair.
Hold Point and Break Point
Consider the teal as either a regular crossing or a regular quartering target when deciding on your hold point. There is no sense in reinventing the wheel for the teal.
A crossing teal, one that goes straight up, requires a gun hold point about half way to the break point. A quartering teal, or one with less angle, necessitates a gun hold point closer to the break point. Two-thirds the way to its apex is a generally a good spot.
Pat advocates you “shoot the teal target in a comfortable spot that does not require you to rush.” This does not mean you should take your time and make an indecisive move. The teal is most consistently shot under power. Use a smooth, aggressive move to break the teal on its way up.
Some teal targets are better shot on the drop, such as when the wind is blowing and it lands closer to the stand than it departs. Or, perhaps the other target of the pair mandates you shoot it prior to the teal. As Pat does not like shooting targets in transition, he generally lets a second-shot teal develop its line on the drop. Maintain the lead on a dropping teal and use the same clock-face strategy described earlier to determine its line.
Pat hardly ever recommends shooting the teal at its peak. This is perhaps the biggest mistake that shooters make on the teal. Breaking the teal at is apex requires incredible timing. If you pull the trigger a little too soon, you’ll miss behind. Pull the trigger a little too late and it has already started its descent.
During practice, try shooting the teal on its ascent, at its peak, and on the drop. At some point in time, you might be forced by a creative target setter to shoot the teal in a spot that is not in your comfort zone. Practicing with a purpose will enrich your tool box of shooting tricks and eliminate the potential for vexation when it is pressure time.
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.