We are coming up on our 28th year as professional coaches and looking back there is not one thing we would change or do differently. My, how our teaching techniques have changed and evolved with the evolution of science about the brain and vision and how our brain creates our reality.
In fact, what we teach and how we present the material has changed dramatically over the past 28 years, because the science of skill building has changed. As it evolves so shall we. What we once did on a white board with different colored markers, we now do with video animation and ShotKam video in 1080dpi from our Knowledge Vault website. Shooters all over the world are getting better by looking at video with voice-over instructions in our “Shotgunning 101 Training” program, which is now a prerequisite for coming to our shooting clinics all over the country.
We remain shocked at the number of shooters who love to shoot clays and game birds who still don’t know the difference between the left-to-right and right-to-left sight pictures. They continue to do the same thing over and over, expecting a different result. We made it a point to talk to attendees at our seminars this past season who had not seen our presentations before, to tell us this difference.
The potpourri of answers we got was not really surprising because we hear them so much. The disturbing part was that without exception, shooters knew what they could and could not hit, but they did not know how to correct the results so they could improve their consistency. Which resulted in a lack of confidence. Especially when shooting in front of other shooters on the clays range. “The ability to consistently self-correct is the genesis of confidence!” Vicki Ash.
One of the biggest paradigm shifts in our teaching is that we no longer try to get shooters to hit the target. We have learned to emphasize a visual program of how they want the shot to come first, before they load the gun and call “pull.” What we have found in the majority of wing and clay shooters is they are so hell-bent on hitting the target that very little, if any, learning occurs when they are shooting.
If they are wingshooting, they only take the shots that make sense to them, so they get better at a few shots. But if the birds are flying in a direction they don’t understand or aren’t good at, due to the migration or wind direction, the hunt becomes a bad memory. When all shooters learn what it really looks like to have the gun in front of a moving target, regardless of direction, distance or speed, then they can self-correct. When this happens the learning really takes off, regardless of the wind or direction of the target.
This in great measure is why so many wingshooters don’t practice! They don’t know what or how to practice. What they see when they mount the gun is really a confusing picture, because they are looking down the barrel. When shooting a moving target with a shotgun, you are never looking down the barrel!
Do we have your attention yet? That’s right, we said it, you are not ever looking down the barrel when shooting a moving target with a shotgun. If you are looking at the target and down the barrel at the same time, where is the barrel? The barrel is on the bird, which, if the bird is moving, would put your shot behind the bird, where you have been all your life with a shotgun!
If the gun is pointed ahead of the bird and you are looking at the bird, then you would be looking at the bird behind where the barrel is pointed, which would mean that you are looking to the left or right of the barrel, depending on the direction the bird is coming from! Wow, we are almost out of breath just explaining that!
It seems fairly simple to just see the bird to the left or right of the barrel, depending on which direction the bird is coming from, but our experience has shown this not to be so simple. Because, what these two sight pictures really look like are very different.
On a recent trip to El Cortijo in Argentina, Gil met a man named David from Brazil who was hunting alone. At the dinner table one night some of the other guests recognized Gil from all his YouTube videos and when David caught-on to who he was, the questions started coming. David admitted that he was much better at left-to-right shots than he was at right-to-left shots and could he help him. To Gil that would be like asking someone if they liked ice cream!
Gil picked up an apple and an orange from the fruit bowl and placed them on the mantel about 15 inches apart with the apple on the left and the orange on the right and told David to get his gun. From across the room Gil told David to look at the apple and mount the gun on the orange, which would be the sight picture on a left-to-right bird, ahead of a bird coming from the right. David commented at how logical and easy that was.
So, Gil then told David to look at the orange and mount on the apple, which would be the sight picture on a right-to-left bird ahead of a bird coming from the right. There was where the confusion began, because they are really different. Gil told David to keep both eyes open and look at the apple across the barrel and when Gil said across the barrel, David said: “Wow! That makes sense now!”
Gil had David practice both sight pictures for about 10 minutes and the next morning before breakfast, David was back on the apple and the orange again, practicing the sight pictures along with several others in the group. After the morning hunt, the celebrations began.
Everyone without exception who had been practicing on the apple and the orange shot better than they ever had and they were all self-correcting in the field because they all finally understood what it was supposed to really look like to see the bird behind the barrel of a shotgun! Well, some lives were changed that day and we must tell you there were some tears of joy in a few eyes of some of the older hunters, who had been hunting all their lives and had never really understood what it looks like to see the bird behind where the barrel is pointed.
This is what we mean when we say rather than teaching you how to hit the bird, we teach you what it looks like visually, so the brain has a picture that it understands. Then we get you to practice the picture and when the brain understands what you are asking it to do, it will respond in kind.
One of the videos in the first module of our Shotgunning 101 Training program is about what we call the three-bullet drill, which is there to train the sight pictures you will use when wing or clay shooting. There are only two. Shooters who take the time to train their brain to understand what the sight pictures really look like, do things like go to the sporting clays range and really practice their shooting and self-correction. They see their improvement because their brains understand what it is supposed to look like.
When you combine a true understanding of what it is supposed to look like to have the gun ahead of the bird, time spent with your gun in your hands doing the home drills described in the 101 course it is a formula for success on the range and in the field. The most important part of this formula is whether you are on the range or in the field when the miss occurs, you immediately know what went wrong and how to fix it.
Gil has told the story of the apple and the orange on many occasions and the ones who have done the drill, without exception, have improved immediately. They have sent emails exclaiming how easy it was for them to understand how to get better with their shotgun. And it all started with an apple and an orange in a hunting lodge in Argentina.