Practice makes perfect in the hunting world, but this couldn't be truer than when it comes to shotgunning. The good news? Compared to rifle shooting, finding opportunities to hone your shotgun skills is considerably easier.
We are fortunate that Alberta has lots of licensed gun ranges. Some require a membership, while others open to visitors for a daily fee. To find a shooting range near you, visit Alberta Federation of Shooting Sports. You'll find contact information for a complete list of gun ranges.
Licensed ranges have established rules to ensure your safety and the wellbeing of the general public . Many have clay pigeons on site for purchase, saving the trouble of bringing your own. Some ranges offer shooting instruction-money well spent if you're a novice. You can avoid frustration in the field by learning the fundamentals of footwork, mounting your shotgun, swinging and following through, and leading targets.
Trap and skeet are great shooting sports for establishing and refining these fundamentals, but nothing replicates field-shooting conditions quite like sporting clays. On a sporting clays course you'll shoot targets at every conceivable angle. Birds seldom fly in a predictable direction, speed or angle, so this will help your hunting immeasurably.
Private land, with permission, is always your best option for practicing outside of an established range (you just never know who else might be on crown land at any given time). Once you have permission from the landowner, all it takes is a few boxes of target loads, a carton of clay pigeons that can be purchased at most firearms retailers, and a target thrower (electric, manual or a hand thrower).
Most critical is setting up in an absolutely safe location. Alberta regulations dictate it is unlawful to discharge a firearm within 200 yards of an occupied building, or cause a projectile to pass within 200 yards of an occupied building. As a shot can travel up to 400 yards-depending on your pellets, wind, and the angle at which you shoot-we recommend you shoot only where you have at least ¼-mile of clearance.