Shotgunning, wingshooting

Shotgunning – Perception vs. Reality


MA13-Shotgun-DSC_0801Shooting a shotgun at a moving object is not a simple thing and is really just about the most confusing thing visually that one could try to do and there are thousands of shooters out there struggling with what it really looks like when you shoot a shotgun at a moving object. Vicki calls that “Cash Flow” and we continue to be surprised at the perceptions that shooters from all over the world have when they are trying to hit a moving object and all of these perceptions are centered around what it really looks like. We used the following analogy in all of our seminars at conventions this past winter and it made so much sense each time we used it that we have decided to devote this column to it.

If you were watching a baseball game from the center field bleachers and the batter hammers a line drive to center field what does the center fielder do? At the crack of the bat the fielder knows both where the ball is and the direction it is moving and also an approximate 200-foot circle where the ball will land. He begins to go toward the circle, all the time looking BACK at the ball. As the ball peaks and the fielder moves ever closer to the center of the circle the 200-foot circle but now it has shrunk to 50 feet and then to 20 feet. The fielder is in the middle of the circle and as the ball closed to the fielder the circle has shrunk to 2 feet and at the last second the gloves moves in front of the players eyes and the ball is caught.

Shotgunning, wingshooting
The photo on the left is the left to right sight picture and Vicki is looking at the target to the left of (or behind) the barrel. The photo on the right is the right to left sight picture and Vicki is looking at the bird to the right of (or behind) the barrel, which is across the barrel on this instance.

Several things happened when the ball was hit and the fielder was aware of many things at once. Two were very definite, where the ball was and the direction the ball was going, and the other somewhat vague, where the ball was going to land. While the fielder always knew where the ball was, where it was going became more and more evident the closer it got to him. When we shoot a target the brain reacts in the same way, the closer it gets to the break point the more we know about what it is actually doing where we are going to shoot it. The player (just like the shooter) never takes his eyes off the ball even though he is running away from the infield his head is turned looking back toward the ball at all times.   His brain is receiving the movement data from the ball and is guiding the fielder to a spot where the ball will hit the ground. The player while watching the ball is in a constant state of evaluation about where exactly the ball is going and the closer it gets to arrival the MORE THE PLAYER KNOWS about what it is doing upon arrival. The speed and angle was much different when the ball left the bat than when it arrives at the glove.   The better and longer the fielder can see the ball, the easier it is for his anticipation circuit to predict exactly where the ball will land and the more consistent he will catch the ball. Interesting thing here is that the glove was not in the play until the last 15% of the flight of the ball and the act of catching the ball was practiced over and over and over until the player could do it without thinking about it. Sounds a lot like the gun mount in our game. You can’t be thinking about what you are doing with the gun and keep your eye on the target, just like you can’t become an advanced shooter or really work on “your mental game” if you are still just trying to learn to hit the targets! In order to be able to advance to the top level of our sport what you do with the gun must be second nature and happen automatically. The circuit must be fired in the brain enough times so that automaticity is achieved and it fires at a certain level with little or no conscious thought.

Attendees spend time on the shotgun range

So in our game the ball is the clay and the gun is the glove so if the ball player had given his glove as much attention as you give the gun in your set up what are his chances of catching the ball? The gun should be involved in only the last 15% of the shot but most beginning shooters want it to be involved in all 100% of the shot and in 80% of the set up as well.   Another observation one shooter made when we discussed this last was how much time the glove spent on the players hand when they were practicing and the obvious answer was almost all the time. It then occurred to us that simply handling the gun every day would go a long way to making it an extension of your body, which it must become for you to really enjoy shooting a shotgun at birds feathered or painted. Hum, lets see where have we heard that before?

So we see beginning shooters constantly looking at the muzzles and the more advanced you become you begin to develop a sense of where the muzzles are pointing without having to actually look at the muzzle. It is developing this sense of where the muzzles are pointing without looking at them that most shooters either misunderstand or are not willing to go through the mundane practice it takes to develop this sense. Well we are here to tell you that you can’t buy a good tomato, a good marriage or a good shotgun game because all of them must be developed over time and they take a lot of effort. The paradox in all of this is that in order to learn what you must master to improve with a shotgun you must fail and then evaluate and then try again and it is the failure or missing the targets that everyone is trying to avoid!

At the root of all of the difficulty and confusion is something we call

When the gun fits with slight cheek pressure it dramatically improves consistency shot to shot.

the aiming perception or the perception that you can actually focus on the target and aim the gun ahead of the target and hit it consistently. Well if the target is still then that is possible but when the target is moving you must be focused on the target and the gun must be pointed ahead of the target in order to hit the target. Now what that looks like is different person to person but when that perception is based on reality then regardless of how a person perceives it becomes “right” to them. This is why our animations that we have developed are so powerful and are changing the way people look at wing and clay shooting worldwide. There are only two sight pictures and in either instance the eyes are looking at the bird behind where the barrel the barrel is pointing.–Gil & Vicki Ash

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