Future SCI President, Paul Babaz, like many of the rest of us, began his hunting carrier as a boy on small game such as rabbits and squirrels and ducks in south Louisiana. This evolved into his passion of big game hunting all over the world and eventually as does happen with many of us as we age his passion turned to quail hunting something he says he just loves to do. Last year he and Joe Hosmer (past President of Safari Foundation) were on a quail hunt together and the conversation turned to the different species of quail. The conversation then turned to the different species of birds within the different types of game birds and somebody said, “There ought to be…”, and the slam was borne and it just took off. Game Birds of the World was the outcome and the first one was the Quail Slam and it has just continued to evolve. The Slam entries will of course be photo entries of all different species of game birds.
Paul was quick to point out the need to embrace the wing shooter within the Safari organization and to say that “We at Safari are not just a bullet crowd in fact there are more wing shooters than big game shooters among our ranks and they need to be recognized in some way and Game Birds of The World just makes sense! We see every year at convention there are expanding numbers of wing-shooting outfitters and bottom line, wing shooting is much more affordable for younger hunters than the big game option. From this group some will evolve into big game but many will get more involved with wing shooting and Safari now has something to offer them in the form of recognition. In Big Game hunting it is all about the resource, but in wing shooting it is more personal. It eventually boils down to the quality of shots that were made and at the end of the day while having a sun-downer it becomes about the quality of the people involved because it’s more social than resource oriented.” We see, among our clientele, that wing shooting is the natural evolution of the older hunter and it really is a huge demographic that will continue to grow and Paul was quick to add, “I’ll bet gun makers are selling more shotguns at convention than rifles!”
Well we could not agree more and we will be addressing how to get ready for a wing shooting outing in our future columns as well as in our seminars at conventions this year so come on in and bring your questions on flushing, passing and decoying birds and we will show you some amazing ShotKam video on a variety of species of game birds. Getting ready for a wing shooting trip is a bit different than getting ready for a big game safari in that you can’t put your shotgun on sticks and aim at the bird because they will be moving and to hit a moving target you must see the bird where it is and point the gun where it is going to be. Now on face value that might seem a simple thing to do but you can ask anyone who has just begun to shoot a shotgun it is not as easy as we make it sound and there is a lot of work that needs to be done long before you leave for the hunt.
To date we have taken 28 groups to Argentina and coach them in the field on doves and the ones who have done their home work as prescribed by Vicki have a great hunt and progress rapidly into the ranks of advanced wing shooters regularly harvesting doves and pigeons in the 50 to 60 yard range with their full chokes. If you would like to see what it looks like to hit a clay or dove or pigeon or quail or pheasant at distance come see our seminar presentations. We will be glad to show you anything you want at any distance in fact we have an actual clay target shot at 100 yards with the ShotKam that we have shown in the past and it seems every seminar we do it is still a request. This year we will be adding 20, 30, 40, 50, & 60 yard clays shots so you can actually see what it looks like when the trigger is pulled on a target at that distance! We will share with you the one thing that creates consistency in the field on game birds as well as on the clays range and go over home drills that have now been scientifically proven to actually make you a better wing and clay shooter.
As we travel each year conducting shooting clinics on all clay disciplines as well as all game birds from flushing quail and pheasants to driven pheasants and grouse to decoyed pigeon and ducks we see the same mistakes made by different shooters when they are getting ready to go. The first and most frequent is that they wait way too late to begin preparation. You can have a custom rifle made so that it MOA accurate at great distance and with a few trips to the range you can get used to it and when it is in the sticks and you have a clear shot you can thread the needle with the bullet. As the song goes, “on the other hand” when the target is moving at an unknown speed and distance and you have 2-3 seconds to figure out what needs to be done to get the gun the correct distance ahead of the bird to hit the target, well let’s say that things get a little more interesting. Imagine if you will shooting off hand at an animal at 100 yards, and how much practice you would have to put in to become as good off hand as you are with the sticks. Imagine just how many arrows you would have to knock and shoot if you were not using a compound bow or a cross bow to achieve hunting accuracy and the target is still.
Lest you feel that we are casting aspersions on how we go about harvesting cleanly and humanely the animals that we so love and respect we are not. We both have done the long-range rifle thing 20-25 years ago and could consistently harvest deer at extended ranges out to 400-500 yards but the conditions had to be right. Little or no wind, correct animal, in the correct place and the right time of day and while those considerations had to be met before we would even think about a shot there is one more thing that had to occur first. We had to have the equipment that was fine tuned to the point that it would do the job but more importantly we had to put in the time so we could touch the round off with confidence knowing we had developed the skills to do the job at the moment of truth when it counted most. And yes we always had a rest for the rifle and plenty of time to let things line up to optimize our chances of success even at the risk of not being able to get the shot off and we never took a shot that we did not feel certain we could make. If there was any doubt raise the bolt handle and pass up the shot.
We will be talking about the exercises we have found that produce almost immediate results and have scientifically proven to work for young and old alike when it comes to improving proficiency in wing and clay shooters in this column. We will also be taking the different situations you will face when wing-shooting and explain how we would teach you to improve your odds for success in the field whether the birds are passing/driven, decoying or flushing. –Gil and Vicki Ash