José María Catresana, Past-President of the SCI Balearean Chapter, recently took up bowhunting and finds Spanish ibex particularly challenging. By walking very slowly, quietly and watching the wind, Catresana arrowed this one at 16 yards.
Perhaps the most misunderstood thing in shooting a shotgun is where you are supposed to be looking when you mount the gun and take the shot. On the surface it is easy to understand that you must look at the bird and that the gun must be in front of the bird to hit it because it is moving, but what does that really look like? Here is where perception and reality take a spin on the wild side and where we spend most of our time when teaching clays or birds in the field. Believe you me we have heard some of the strangest perceptions of what really happens when people shoot shotguns at moving targets. Everything from “I keep one eye on the target and one eye on the gun” to “I just mount the gun and swing it real fast and that spreads the shot out in an oval giving me a bigger pattern to hit the bird with.” It seems to us that there is a great deal of misconception about what really happens when shooting a shotgun, which is what Vicki calls “cash flow!”
Where the eyes are really looking when the shot is taken and just how much focus is given the bird and how much can be given the bird is what separates the good shots from the not so good. The good shots from their own experience either on the sporting course or in the field have determined exactly what their sight pictures look like and just how much awareness they can give the barrel and still kill the bird, painted or feathered. The reason we said “their sight pictures” was that sight pictures are a perception because it occurs in the periphery. We have discussed this in our seminars and in this column, but it seems we need to repeat ourselves so here goes:
Pay attention now, because this is where all the misconceptions occur and why. The target and the gun cannot share the same space or the shot will be missed behind. So that leaves the target in our primary or “center” vision and puts the gun in our periphery. Why is this so confusing? Well it has to do with the arrival time of the visual input to the brain. The information from our center vision arrives at the motor center in 5mls and the information in our periphery arrives as much as 200mls to 300mls behind real time. Remember now, the gun is in the periphery and the target is in our center vision, so input about where the target is arrives to your brain in real time (5mls) and information about the gun arrives as much as .3 seconds behind real time. Where you think you saw the barrel when the target broke, all be it real to you, it was not. Muzzle awareness is a perception because of this varying time delay to the brain. That is why on some days you are shooting very well and are not concerned about where the barrel really is but when you start missing the first thing you do is (not to look at the bird harder) to concentrate more on where the barrel is and you all know what happens after that. It is this sliding focus ratio that confuses shooters worldwide.
Our research has shown us that focus ratios of 95% on the target and no more that 5% on the gun are required for optimal performance with a shotgun on clays or live birds. That ratio can slide as long it is up on the target side of the ratio, meaning 96/4 or 98/2, but when the ratio goes the other way, nothing good happens. People who shoot consistently well with a shotgun know what this looks like to them and as a result can reproduce it over and over. Those of you who have not spent the required time behind the gun think you know what this looks like, but because you don’t understand your sight pictures and the required focus ratios to consistently produce them, your results are anything but consistent. Because sight pictures are a perception, they must be experienced to be recognized and rarely will two people have the same sight picture on the same bird even thought they both hit the bird consistently.
This perhaps is the one biggest problem that must be overcome by new and recreational shooters. They think they understand the concept of focusing on the bird and pointing the gun ahead of the bird when taking the shot, but without the experience of actually doing it, they are constantly frustrated by their results. This is also why we stress so much to shooters to learn to move and mount the gun consistently by practicing their gun mount at home with the flashlight drill and the three bullet drill. By practicing those two simple drills everyday for three or four weeks, a hopeful shooter can easily improve their field percentage (shots per bird) by as much as 50%, but that would take time and time is the one thing that we can’t buy or manufacture more of. This is why so many try to buy a shotgun game. Whether it is a new expensive gun or having their gun “fitted” or installing glow worm sights on the end of the rib, eventually you will find yourself in the fraternity of many who finally come see us–The More Money Than Brains and Ability Club! You know the ones we are talking about, they have $30,000 worth of gun and $.03 worth of talent because they have not put forth the effort and taken the time to turn the moving and mounting of the gun into a skill. Remember, all skill resides in the subconscious, which means it happens without you thinking about it and until moving and mounting the gun becomes a skill for you, unfortunately you will be missing more than you are hitting when shooting clays or the real thing. After all, if you are thinking about what you are doing with the gun as you move and mount it, what do you think your focus ratio will be?–Gil Ash
On Wednesday, September 19, 2012, hundreds of representatives from hunting, fishing, and shooting industries, non-profit organizations, and members of Congress met in Washington, D.C. to celebrate the 23rd annual Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) banquet. For almost 25 years now the bi-partisan, bi-cameral efforts of CSF have smoothed the passage of legislation impacting wildlife conservation around the country.
Prior to the evening dinner, CSF held a briefing in the basement of the Capitol Rotunda. In attendance were Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Co-Chairs Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and John Thune (R-SD) and CSC Vice-Chair, Representative Bob Latta (R-OH), who spoke on the important role sportsmen and women play in conservation and wildlife management. CSF Board Chairman, the Honorable Lindsay Thomas, delivered the latest data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (Service) 2011 National Survey on Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife Associated Recreation to compare hunting and fishing participation and expenditures to mainstream industries. The results are in, and they look good; the number of hunters and anglers is up across the nation, with 37.4 million of us over the age of 16. 2011 was the first year in many that saw an increase in the number of people enjoying America’s outdoor hunting and fishing heritage. In fact, the $90 billion spent by hunters and anglers would rank them higher than Kroger, Proctor & Gamble, and Costco on the Fortune 500 list, and the $33.9 billion spent by hunters is comparable to the total 2011 revenues for Amazon.com. “To put it in perspective, the 37 million sportsmen and women over the age of 16 in America is the same as the population of the state of California, and the $90 billion they spent in 2011 is the same as the global sales of Apple’s iPad and iPhone in the same year,” commented Jeff Crane, president of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. “Hunting and fishing have been, and clearly continue to be, important elements of our country’s outdoor heritage and they are critically important to our nation’s economy – particularly the small local economies that support quality hunting and fishing opportunities.” For more statistics on sportsman spending, visit www.sportsmenslink.org.
Safari Club International Executive Committee members Craig Kauffman, Paul Babaz, Sherry Maddox, and Bruce Eavenson helped kick off the annual banquet at the VIP Reception, which was co-sponsored by SCI and Outdoor Channel. CSF President Jeff Crane praised Safari Club International’s commitment to science-based conservation and sound legislation, and expressed his gratitude for SCI’s Diamond Level Sponsorship of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. SCI President-Elect Craig Kauffman spoke at the reception, challenging everyone to increase their sponsorship donations to the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. “It requires leadership and vision to maintain the position of prominence that the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation has over the past 23 years,” said Kauffman. “Without the vision of Jeff, his staff, the CSF board of directors and all our fellow hunters and anglers who served on past boards, our community, and our hunting heritage would not be as well protected today as it is.” he concluded.
Also attending the VIP reception was five-time Olympian and Safari Club International Life Member Kim Rhode. Kim highlighted the importance of getting young people involved with the shooting sports in order to preserve the traditions of hunting and fishing in America.
Chad and Marsha Schearer have spent the past several years hunting with a muzzleloader around the world. They have featured their muzzleloader hunts on their television show. With special record book categories and expanded seasons, modern muzzleloader hunters have more opportunities than ever before. This seminar will showcase beginner to advanced techniques.