Those of us older hunters probably learned our hunting and shooting skills from relatives.  If you are like me, that also meant you learned some poor shooting skills.  My father’s advice for shotgun shooting was “point it in the right direction and pull the trigger.” 

What do we look at when a pheasant flushes?  The answer is obvious, the tail to identify cock birds.  That is also where we often are shooting.  Hunters usually are shooting behind the bird when we miss, for that very reason. 

The amount of time available for shooting is much more than most of us expect.  To illustrate his point, take a shot at two clay targets cast right after one another.  We usually hit one or the other but not both.  This is typical since we rush one of the shots thinking there is not enough time. 

 Next place only one shell in the double barrel gun.  The same two birds are cast with the shooter shooting one, loading the second shell, and shooting at the second clay target.  It is a dramatic way of demonstrating all the time that is available for aiming and shooting.  By the way shooters improve significantly in the number of birds hit. 

Getting back to the pheasant flushing, just where should the hunter be looking?  With all this time available, he should look first to identify the bird as legal.  Then he can look to the eyes of the bird.  If you can see the eyes of a pheasant, you can kill it.  The idea is that if you can see the eyes, it is in range, and your focus is at the front of the bird and you will not shoot behind it. 

By practicing on clay targets, hunters can improve their success in the field.  I do not mean just going to a trap or sporting clays range and shooting all the targets.  Focus on those clays that are cast in a manner similar to what you will encounter in the field.  Overhead, rising and crossing shots are best. 

Another area to be examined may be gun “fit”.  The fit of a shotgun has more to do with how one holds it rather than cutting down, or building up, the stock.  It is a question of how the hunter mounts the gun. 

One way to practice proper mounting of a shotgun can be done at home.  The hand that holds the forearm of the shotgun should have the index finger pointing toward where the gun is aimed.  This allows the shooter to point to his target, making the shot a more normal function. 

At home the shooter can stand five to six feet from a mirror with a gun that is empty.  He then mounts the gun to the shoulder and points toward the mirror.  If the gun is properly mounted, the bead on the end of the barrel and the shooter’s eye are in alignment.  By practicing this many times at home, it becomes a natural feeling mount when in the field. 

What about the difference when shooting with heavy clothing as opposed to shooting with light clothing.  To compensate for that move the hand back or forward on the forearm of the gun.  That is, still with the index finger point where you want to shoot. 

Once in the field two other points are important.  With clay targets is it is important to focus and shoot at the forward side of the target.  This “head” side is the one that is toward the direction the target is moving.  Do not focus on the bright color body of the target or on the “backside”. 

The other pointer is to raise the barrel up to the target not from above down.  If bringing the barrel down from above the target or bird, you block your view of the bird. 

Get out this year and try these new techniques in the field.



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  1. Thanks for posting this article, found some inspiration for some multi-person drills of my own 🙂 I’m thinking about getting one myself 🙂

  2. I totally agree with practicing mounting the gun in front of a mirror in the privacy of your own home as this repetition will reap huge rewards while on pheasant shoots.

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