Earlier this month, a reader emailed to say that for as long as he could remember – in a shooting career of nearly ten years or so – the battue had always been his bogey bird. He went on to say that it was often the battue that ruined his scorecard and sometimes made the difference between winning his class and being in the middle of the pack. I too have had my fair share of bad experiences with the battue. To this day, I still recollect the left-to-right battue that was thrown over the pond on station 13 – the last station – of the 2011 Michigan State Championship. It cost me three losses and a perfect score. I had a 97 that day. Providentially, the battue is now a target in my comfort zone. It’s time it be in yours too.
KNOW YOUR ENEMY
The battue target is characterized by a 9-millimeter profile, the absence of a deep concavity, and a weight of just 76 grams (2.68 ounce). These attributes make the battue the most aerodynamic target on the course. Its ultra-thin profile permits the conservation of velocity and a unique flight path, sometimes described as the “turn and roll.” In fact, on a like for like basis, the battue tends to still be under power when a standard clay is on its last leg.
The battue was originally designed to be thrown driven. When thrown this way, it peels away from the shooter as would a true driven pheasant. Today, due to safety concerns, we seldom see the battue thrown for its original intended purpose. Nonetheless, the battue still remains a unique and fascinating target.
The target setter can employ the battue one of two ways. If the battue is loaded into the machine right-side up, the target will leave the machine like a pencil and then open up after traveling a considerable distance. If loaded upside down into the machine, the battue will open up almost immediately and move in a flight path very similar to the chondelle.
MAKE YOUR PLAN, IT’S AS SIMPLE AS COUNTING TO THREE
At this point in our series, you’ve probably come to realize a trend. No matter what type of target you are presented with, your approach should be dictated by three simple criteria: angle, speed, and distance. These three features should govern the method you use and the amount of perceived lead necessary to break any given target.
Pat considers angle to be the most substantial of the three features. It is angle that determines whether a target is crossing or quartering. That being said, your choice of technique should be almost solely determined by angle. “If the target is crossing – that is, it has 45 degrees or more of angle – than I use maintained lead.” Pat notes that “[he] does not like to let crossers get in front of his barrel.” If the battue target is presented in a way that is quartering, consider inserting the gun on the front edge of the target and gently pulling away. “It is just too easy to end up offline if you use maintained lead on a target with very little angle.” If the battue is going left to right and falling, for example, this means inserting on the leading edge (7 or 8 o’clock) and pulling away.
As you pull away, make sure that your eyes stay focused on the leading edge of the target as opposed to the spot in the sky that you are pushing towards. Pat also advises for the use of pull away on a battue that you find difficult to see: “If the battue is thrown in a way in which its presence surprises you, then you’re going to find it almost impossible to start in front.”
Speed and distance both play similar roles in effecting the amount of perceived lead the battue will require. Increasing either attribute prompts more perceived lead. One tactic that target setters like to employ is mis-matching the two. Pat says, “I have seen a lot of people struggle with fast, close battues. Even though it’s close, say inside 35 yards, a true crossing battue with a lot of speed can take quite a bit of lead.” This is especially true if your breakpoint is a fair amount after the roll, as gravity has already begun to take its toll.” If you miss a close battue that has a lot of spring, don’t be afraid to double the lead. You might be surprised.
ANALYZE YOUR BREAKPOINT
Since the battue is initially razor thin, Pat advocates waiting for it to develop. As the battue reaches the peak of its parabolic curve, it will temporarily run out of steam and roll over to present a full face. You should commit to breaking the battue at this point in its flight path.
One common mistake that shooters make is not accurately reading the battue at the intended breakpoint. According to Pat, “the battue tends to rise as soon as it starts to roll over.” People think it is dropping, however it is usually still increasing in elevation. To prevent shooting underneath the battue, ask yourself a question. Is it rising, is it level, or is it starting to drop? Once you answer that question, you will know where you will need to be to execute the perfect shot.
Of all the targets on the course, the battue is the most likely to be affected by wind. A sudden gust of wind coming from the same direction as the battue may prevent it from developing and presenting its full face. On the other hand, a gust from the opposite direction may cause the battue to climb steeply and develop in a completely different place than its intended trajectory.
Either situation could cause even the most prepared shooter off-guard. According to Pat, “when this happens, you might totally miss your chosen kill zone.” When startled, finding the target’s line is bound to be your biggest challenge. Pat’s go-to technique for times when it is the connection with the line that’s the concern is to insert on the back edge and pull away.
For all you target setters out there, Pat advocates throwing the upside-down battue as opposed to the right-side-up battue when there is a forecast for high winds. “Since the upside-down battue opens up almost immediately, it is a much more consistent way to set battues. The wind can keep a right-side-up battue on edge throughout its whole flight, whereas the wind usually only alters the distance of the upside-down battue.” Both battues are tainted by wind, but the upside-down battue is indisputably more apt to remain shoot-able.
The next time you encounter the battue, or any target for that matter; remember that target analysis is as simple as accessing angle, speed, and distance. It’s wise to spend a little extra time before you call pull at each station to identify just what you’re dealing with. Your scorecard will reap the rewards.
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.