Hone your shotgunning skills on the cheap with a portable target thrower.
By Clair Rees
Shotgunning is more art than science. That’s painfully obvious when you hunt quail, ducks, pheasants or any other upland birds. Carefully aim a shotgun as you do a rifle, and you’ll miss every time.
Even if birds rained from the sky every time you touched a shotgun trigger, wingshooting skills deteriorate without practice.
Pre-season practice is easy if you have a trap, skeet or sporting clays range nearby. Sporting clays is particularly helpful for hunters because of the wide variety of target angles and velocities encountered.
Even if a commercial claybird range is within easy driving distance, you may have to schedule shooting time well in advance. There are also range fees and tips to pay.
There’s a more convenient alternative. Portable traps offer the same kind of practice, and can be used whenever you have free time. Get the owner’s permission to use a vacant field, and you can shoot clay targets whenever you get the urge.
Portable traps come in a variety of models and prices. The cheapest solution is to buy a simple molded target thrower. The ubiquitous EZ-Thrower II offered by MTM Case-Gard sells for around $6. Many people use hand traps with complete satisfaction. I’m a klutz. Whenever I try a hand trap, my targets go everywhere, sometimes striking the startled shooter. I’ve never gotten the hang of them.
Mechanical traps are another story. I’ve used several different models with great success. They throw targets straight and true with very little operator effort. They’re not as cheap as molded hand traps, but they won’t break your budget. The Trius BirdShooter 2 sells for around $35 while the Do-All Competitor goes for only $30. Other traps are almost as affordable. Each has advantages and drawbacks, but all do a great job of throwing targets.
The BirdShooter 2 and Do-All Competitor can be mounted on a spare tire or anchored by driving their angle-iron legs into reasonably soft ground. Both traps have a long pull-cord release, allowing you to launch targets from kneeling, sitting or standing postions.
The BirdShooter 2 features the Trius Tru-Spin throwing arm designed to fling targets farther with less breakage. It throws both doubles and singles. The trap is simple to cock and use. Oversize knobs allow easy adjustment without tools.
Do-All’s Clayhawk Full-Clock trap sells (around $70) is more versatile than the Competitor and is easier to cock. A three-pivot mount lets you angle the trap to throw targets at a variety of angles and in virtually any direction. Both traps will throw single targets and stacked or nesting pairs. Steel stabilizing spikes that help anchor these traps to the ground are included.
One of my favorite traps is the Trius One-Step. Its unique design allows me to launch my own targets while holding my gun in the “ready” position. Foot pressure operates the trap. You place a target on the throwing arm before the arm is cocked, which makes loading clay pigeons extremely safe. Pressing down on the foot pedal first cocks, then releases the arm. It takes 130 to 140 pounds of firm, steady foot pressure to cock, then release the arm. Stomping down on the pedal results in broken targets.
The Trius One-Step easily adjusts to launch clays at three different angles of elevation. An adjustable clip lets you throw either single or stacked double targets. I particularly like this trap because you don’t need someone else on hand to throw targets for you.
Like the One-Step, the Trius BirdShooter 2 and Do-All Competitor can be operated by the man holding the gun. Simply pull the string feeding out the back of the trap, and the target soars away. This is a little less handy than stepping on a pedal, but if you don’t have someone along to help, you can still launch clay birds by yourself.
All of these traps will fit the trunk or back seat of a car without disassembly. The other traps I’m about to mention are bulkier. You can get them into a car trunk, but not without partially disassembling them. This doesn’t take a lot of time, but you’ll need a wrench to remove a few bolts.
The Trius TrapMaster 2 allows you to sit comfortably in a padded seat while you operate the trap. To cock it, simply grasp the throwing arm at the “Pull Here” marking - not at the arm’s narrow forward edge. Then pull the arm back until it cocks.
Sliding targets up or down the launching arm allows you to vary their flight. Targets placed side by side will fly in different directions, while vertically stacked clays will both follow the same flight path. A pivoting base allows flight angles to be quickly and easily changed simply by swinging the trap several degrees right or left. To make sure targets are thrown safely forward, pivot travel is limited to a 60-degree arc. A spring clip holds single or stacked clays that fly farther and closer together than regulation double targets. This trap will even throw empty cans with the help of a special attachment (supplied).
Do-All’s sit-down traps are a little more costly. A pivoting mount allows you to throw all five regulation targets, including singles and stacked doubles. Singles can travel up to 80 yards, while stacked doubles can be thrown up to 50 yards. Targets can be launched in virtually all directions and at angles that will challenge any shooter.
The Do-All Single Trap features slip-on legs for easy disassembly, while the Double Trap sports two target launchers that add to the challenge.
The budget-priced Trius and Do-All traps I own, combined with the sit-down TrapMaster 2 and Do-All Single traps, allow me to create a pretty decent miniature sporting clays layout. The Do-All trap can even throw running rabbit targets.
These reasonably priced traps make shotgun practice something to look forward to — and the more fun you have, the better you’ll shoot.
Reprinted from the July 2007 issue of Buckmasters GunHunter Magazine. Subscribe today to have GunHunter delivered to your home.