You have a high-volume hunt to Argentina or Bolivia planned, have put a deposit down and are beginning to think about some things you want to take when it hits you. You will be shooting perhaps more than you have ever shot before, and you really should maybe practice a little before you go. After 28 trips to South America shooting a variety of different birds and giving lots of instruction in the field on the real thing, here are some things that we will share we guarantee will help you when you are there.
Don’t wait till the last minute to go to the local range and take a lesson or two and shoot some practice. In order for a lesson or practice to really help you it must occur at least two to three months before you depart for your trip. You should use the gun you will be hunting with.
We have new customers who call for a one- or two-hour lesson to get ready for their trip. When we ask when they are leaving, they say “next week” and we just shake our heads. In order for any lesson to do you any good, you must have time to go practice what you have learned so you don’t have to think about what you are doing while you are shooting!
We go out to the range and spend some time with these shooters and find that they want to start with the gun mounted and call “pull” after they have made sure that they have everything lined up and are looking down the barrel. This is when we put the gun down and open the OSP Knowledge Vault and look at some of the 1000+ ShotKam videos in the Dove or Pigeon Hunting sections of the Shot Simulator.
They are fascinated with what it really looks like when the gun is ahead of the bird and the muzzle speed is the same as the bird’s speed when the shot is taken. Although they have been hunting with a shotgun most of their lives, they have never really seen what a successful shot looks like when the trigger is pulled on a moving target.
As a general rule, most shooters are looking down the barrel with one eye shut chasing the bird with the end of the barrel trying to aim three feet ahead of the bird. It is at that point that we begin talking about sight picture and the difference between right-to-left and left-to-right shots and the importance of gun speed equaling the bird’s speed and how that really makes the bird slow down.
The concept of seeing the bird behind where the barrel is pointed is, in the beginning, foreign to most shooters. But after watching some of the ShotKam shots and animations that illustrate exactly where your eyes are supposed to be, then what sight picture really looks like begins to make sense.
We have shown many of these ShotKam shots in our seminars at Convention and in fact some of our shooters are watching them before they go shoot clays or hunt and they tell us that they just shoot better. That is something we discovered years ago and still do it to this day.
As we mentioned above, if we can get shooters to come to us at least two to three months before they leave on their hunt, then they will have time to practice their gun mounts and the sight pictures enough that they will be ready for their hunt. About four weeks out, you should begin doing gun mounts in the morning and evening at least 100 to 150 times each. Yep we said 100 to 150 times in the morning and in the evening! That is how you avoid getting those nasty bruises on your bicep from miss-mounting the gun.
When you get to two weeks out, then up the number of mounts to 300 to 500 and yes, we know it is a lot, but if you shoot 1,000 shells per day, which is conservative, then you will probably mount the gun 2,000 times per day. Practicing the move and the mount will really improve your efficiency in the field when the birds are coming from every direction as far as you can see. Just be careful and make sure you are not looking down the barrel when doing your practice mounts.
The shooters who have more consistent success are doing the three bullet drill when doing their practice mounts, but many shooters complain that they get bored doing that, so we have a new drill for you. Pick out any small object in the room, a light switch or a corner of a door, and practice mounting to the left and then to the right of the object as if it was the bird and you were mounting in front of it.
Practicing that dramatically improves your efficiency in the field because you are mounting the gun into the shot instead of mounting the gun and chasing the bird with the barrel. If you do one mount each 2.5 seconds, then that is 24 per minute and, with a few breaks, you can get to 500 in about 30 minutes. It’s OK to push yourself to build up the muscles you will be using on your hunt.
We never go into the field without a shooting pouch or leather shooting gloves. Our glasses, alcohol wipes to clean the glasses, band aids, ear plugs and muffs and extra batteries for both all go in a bag. The first thing we pack is our camouflage rain gear. Even if it doesn’t rain, we use it as a windbreaker. We generally wear our boots on the trip down, and we take three changes of clothes that can be layered. With weather services, now all you have to know is a close town to your lodge and you can pack pretty close to perfect as far as temperature and precipitation, but always have things that can be layered or not.
We historically always take K-20s with us on all of our high-volume hunts. Shooters who book trips with us for instructions in the field typically bring their own gun with them because they have gone to great lengths to have them fitted and if you are going to shoot as much as you do on a high-volume hunt, they just want to use their own guns. Most shooters who come with us follow our advice and have an Isis Recoil System installed to help eliminate felt recoil, are experienced at traveling with their guns and their guns are insured. Insuring your gun is the cheapest money you can spend and the piece of mind it brings you is incredible.
There is one other product we have found invaluable both on high volume hunts and all other hunts as well as at the clays range, and that is a Rapid Rod. This little collapsible aluminum two-ounce rod is a lifesaver if you have a barrel obstruction! It comes with jags and cleaning attachments, but we throw those away and use it as a ramrod to clear a barrel of any obstruction, or to punch out a wad or a spent hull that gets stuck in an ejector. It folds up into its case and weighs nothing, and when you will need one, you will be glad you have it. In fact, we or someone in our group has needed to use one on almost every trip we have been on!
We feel we must add two more things that we constantly coach shooters on in the field on high-volume hunts. First is to slow down and take frequent breaks. Stay hydrated. The second is to hunt farther out. Most shooters have never seen so many birds in front of them at one time and they inevitably begin to look up in the sky about 45 to 50 yards in front of them. When they commit to a bird, by the time they get the gun mounted, the bird is almost on them and they are in a rush to take the shot.
Nothing good happens (especially with a shotgun) when you are in a hurry. Look farther out, watching for general flight paths of birds on the horizon. Eventually, you will figure out where the birds are flying that day, and where the birds that will be close to you will be coming from. If you will commit early and engage the birds when they are still 50 yards out and take the shot at 35 to 25 yards, you will find greater success because the birds will be slower and more in a straight line.
Most shooters are hunting way too close and are constantly in a rush. On our hunts, we typically let our shooters shoot with skeet or an IC choke on the first hunt and shoot close birds. On the next hunt, they go to modified and eventually a full choke and, with some instruction, they rapidly become really good shots. So the moral to the story is to prepare before you leave and you will have much more fun and will probably not have any bruises to hide when you return.–Gil & Vicki Ash