Just as there are many things that need to be done before a hunt for big game, there are several that should be done before a wingshooting safari. To illustrate several of them, we will compare the differences with rifle shooting or shooting a bow.
When shooting a rifle or bow, sight alignment is critical and distance is more critical with a bow than a rifle. Once the sights are aligned, then it becomes trigger control that determines consistency of results. We should also include that using shooting sticks helps tremendously, as do the advancements that have been made in rifles, riflescopes and sighting devices for bows. All contribute to consistent accuracy and clean kills, but the target is still!
When the target is moving, you must focus on the target and mount the gun ahead of it while moving the muzzle with the target without looking down the muzzle. As Milo Abercrombie would say, “That’s a whole different settin’ of eggs!” So lets delve into what it really looks like, and where everything is when shooting a moving target with a shotgun. On the surface, it seems simple to say you must be looking at the target and the gun must be mounted ahead of the target to hit it, but what that really looks like and the reality of how it comes together on a consistent basis is where the simplicity ends and the confusion begins.
As professional shooting instructors for the past 25 years, we have been fortunate enough to meet many of you and help you sort out this dilemma in different ways both on the clays range and on our 28 trips to Argentina coaching some of you on doves and pigeons. In any sport, there are certain basic fundamentals that must be learned in order to maximize your enjoyment of the time spent in the field, and wingshooting is no exception! In fact, in our eyes, being able to execute the basic fundamentals in wingshooting is even more important to insure success in the field!
When shooting flushing birds, you can’t use shooting sticks and you can’t take a little extra time and aim. The target is always moving at an unknown speed and most of the time an unknown distance. In the instance of a flushing bird, after you are startled by the flushing, the bird is trying to get away from you as quickly as it can and will be flying on a sometimes varying angle, darting and changing directions as many as two or three times in the beginning of its flight!
You must be able to react and mount the gun to the bird and merge the muzzles onto the line of the bird from underneath, all the while not knowing where the bird is going! So as you can see, you must be able to react to whatever the bird does all while looking at the bird and not looking at the gun. If you look at the gun, then your eyes have come off the bird and then how do you know where the bird is, much less where it is going to be? You must learn through practice how to move and mount the gun and how to know where the gun is pointed without looking at the gun and what all that looks like before you go to the field and go hunting.
You must know where the muzzle is pointed without looking at it! That is perhaps the biggest conundrum in wingshooting. As you can see, all of this stuff happens in a few seconds in a flushing situation. You must react to what the bird does and if you are thinking about what you are doing, you are behind the target.
So how do you practice developing the skill necessary to move and mount the gun into the lead of a flushing target? Welcome to the OSP Flashlight Drill and the OSP Three Bullet Drill! Those two drills are scientifically proven to improve your wing and clay shooting in case studies with shooters of all ages, and we mean old shooters too! If you want to get better in the field, do the drills twice a day for 21 days before you go hunting and you will see a dramatic improvement in your success in the field.
The OSP Flashlight Drill is designed to coordinate the movement of each hand mounting the gun while keeping the muzzle pointed at a single spot. With out a doubt, the consistency with which someone moves and mounts the gun determines in great measure their proficiency in the field as well as their enjoyment in the field! Remember, we are not going to mount the gun and then chase the birds with the muzzle! We are however going to move and mount the muzzle just in front and a little under the bird and as soon as the bird straightens out its flight and we know where it is going, we will then move the muzzle up to the line just in front of the bird and take the shot. All of this is done while focusing on the bird and not looking at the gun!
So the biggest drawback to wing shooters across the globe is the question, “What does it look like to be looking at the bird and have the gun mounted in front of the bird?” This was the genesis of the OSP Three Bullet Drill. What’s really happening when you “see” something is that your eyes don’t see, your brain sees. The brain interprets what the eyes transmit and you can train your eyes to “see” the way you want them to.
Just like you think of chocolate ice cream and begin to salivate, but think about cauliflower or spinach instead and the reaction is not the same. The way you react is as much programed as it is real. In fact, it is more programed than real. If you want to understand what it really looks like to see the target with the gun in front of it, where it must be to break or hit the bird; just doing the simple Three Bullet Drill will help eliminate any visual confusion you might have. Believe me when I tell you shooting a shotgun with both eyes open can be one of the most visually confusing things a human being can attempt.
Here is a quick example of what we are talking about. Lets say a quail flushed ahead of you and pealed off to the right making the shot a left to right shot. Where is the bird and where is the gun and what does that look like? Now lets experience the same situation but the bird goes to the left making it a right to left shot. Where is the bird and the gun and what does that look like?
You will either be looking at the bird to the left of the barrel with both eyes, or you will be looking across the barrel at the bird with both eyes. You can help the brain interpret those two pictures by doing the drill. The more comfortable your brain is combining the images from each eye, the easier it is for you to see the shot as it comes together in the field.
A great place to practice these flushing pictures is on a trap range standing close to the trap house and calling for the target with a low gun the way you will be approaching the flush in the field. Shooting a few crossers on a sporting clays field won’t hurt you either. Getting the gun in your hands both at home and at the range will create the reactions we are looking for when reacting to the flush in the field. Vicki says that shooting a shotgun is more like dancing than walking. The shot must flow and the target is leading and you can’t be thinking about your feet while you are dancing or your gun while shooting for that matter!–Gil & Vicki Ash