Far too few gunners spend appropriate amounts of time practice shooting their shotgun mimicking actual hunting conditions. Don’t think that wingshooting is much like riding a bicycle: once you learn it always comes back. The appropriate phrase is more like: “Use it or lose it.” Following are five tips to help keep your wingshooting skills honed.
1. Point, Don’t Aim: Wingshooting is a reaction sport. Shots often have to made quickly. Attempting to aim at a fleeing target takes a precious second or two and often puts the shooter behind the game, with many missed shots being the result. Both eyes should be kept open while swinging on a bird. Let your natural instincts take over. Your eyes will naturally follow the target. Practice pointing your index finger at a flying clay target. Follow it and as your finger blacks out the target, say, “Boom,” and continue your follow through until the target hits the ground. Repeating this feat often will give you a smooth, steady swing with both eyes open. Develop the habit of pointing the index finger of the hand with which you grip the forearm, down the barrel. It will feel awkward at first, but soon you will discover that, like your eyes, your finger will follow the target as well. Good shooting is about hand and eye coordination.
2. Keep Your Head on the Stock: Improper gun alignment is a key ingredient to most misses. Gun placement on the shoulder, elbow height and cheek alignment on the stock all influence accuracy. Keeping your head on the stock while pointing and firing is paramount. Shooters often lift their heads just before pulling the trigger on targets that are flying straight away, angling or dropping.
Elevating the elbow of the arm to which the gun is mounted will naturally push the head closer to the stock and keep the gun tight to the cheek. For targets which are dropping quickly, raise the elbow a bit more. This action will keep the head down on the stock with the downward motion of the firearm. With rising targets, less elbow height makes it easier to keep your cheek to the stock as the target rises. Elbow height should be used as a variable for a proper gun mount on a moving target.
3. Adjust Stance Relative to Target Flight: A proper shooting stance, in any situation, makes good gun alignment much easier. A good stance will greatly improve shooting ability and success. Much like pointing the index finger, aligning the left foot (if right handed) as a pointer to the exact spot where you want to hit the target makes the process much easier. Right hand shooters will do well to place their left foot slightly ahead of the right with a comfortable spread between the feet. Slightly more weight should be placed on the forward foot. A slightly forward lean to the left foot completes the stance. Think balance.
4. Place Shotgun Correctly Before Mounting: Sporting clays practice is a great way to practice gun placement prior to the shot. Some clays shooters mount their gun before the clay is released. This is not good practice for the wingshooter. On the flip side of the coin, many who do no prefer to mount their gun before the clay is released, develop the bad habit of holding their gun too low or pointing it in an awkward direction.
The key is to position the gun correctly before mounting it. For trap shooting, simply align your gun somewhere between the trap house and the point where you want to break the target. For a hunting situation, most hunters utilize a “port-arms” carry, with the shotgun held across the chest, diagonally, with both hands. These positions, for both scenarios, minimizes unneeded gun movement, and produces a gun mount that is fast, fluid and on target. Improper gun placement before the mount is one of the biggest contributing factors to misses.
5. Analyze Flight Path And Shot Location: It all happens so fast on the range or in the field. Like all the other points for better shooting, analyzing target flight path and the best shot location, enhances consistent success. Most times a target, or bird, will fly with a slight curve, rise, angle or drop. Many times their will be a short window where the target gives the best presentation for a shot.
A perfect example is a group of ducks dropping into a decoy set quickly, while rocking and careening. When a bird shows the most surface area is the time to pull the trigger. Lots of practice is the key to anticipating flight path and shot location. Spending lots of time in the field studying the habits and flight patterns of your favorite game bird is the final solution to bringing these five shooting pointers to fruition.
Wingshooting is a difficult, but highly rewarding pursuit. Don’t short yourself when it comes to spending time with your favorite wingshooting shotgun. It will be time well spent.