1) Shoot, Shoot, Shoot
This is the fun tip. During the off-season shoot as much as your schedule will allow. Utilize the local gun clubs that offer skeet and/or sporting clays. But remember, even though both these disciplines were designed to give the bird hunter practice, the technique that has evolved over the years is not conducive to field shooting. The method of pre-mount, minimal movement interception only works for predictable presentation. When practicing for field, address each presentation with a low gun ready position and practice an efficient gun mount while staying connected to the target. On the sporting clays course, stay away from the unrealistic presentations like the ones that are at such a distance that would be considered unethical in the field. Most important, leave the score card at home.
The author providing sporting clays instruction. He recommends shooting clays whenever possible to improve your results in the field.
2) Learn to Draw Lines
In your house there are many different lines that can resemble the flight paths of the game birds and fowl that we hunt. These lines are where ceiling meets the wall, where two walls come together, door frames, moulding etc. Speaking as right handed shooter, teach the left hand to draw the line while the right hand hinges the stock to the cheek. For example, stand in the center of the room facing the wall, follow the line between the ceiling and wall with the muzzle of the gun to the corner, remember to use the core of your body to swing the gun and not your arms, while the muzzle is drawing the line to the corner of the room the right hand is completing a disciplined gun mount. This teaches you to make one fluid movement that combines gun mount as well as finding the bird’s flight line on a hard crossing target. Use the corner of the room and follow the line up to the ceiling for a ground flush escaping bird. Face the corner and use the lines created by the ceiling and walls that are quartering towards you to practice typical dove, duck and driven bird flight paths. And of course please inspect your gun(s) to make sure they are empty.
Face the center of the wall and track the lines to the corners of the room for practicing passing shots common with ducks.
3) A Reflection of Yourself
As a professional instructor and gun fitter it is common for me to get in front of the gun while my student mounts it. This, of course, is done after a thorough inspection of the chambers leaving absolutely no doubt that the gun is safe. The information I receive with this practice is huge in both helping to correct gun mount and/or determine proper gun fit. You can do this at home with the use of a mirror. If you are mounting the gun off your right shoulder then you point and mount on the reflection of your right eye in the mirror. The response you will get will be immediate. Perfect alignment of shotgun bore and sight plane happens when the pupil is absolute center of the rib and the rib appears to dissect the bottom third of your pupil. If after the gun mount is made and the pupil is not in the right position then make whatever adjustment necessary to correct the alignment. Keep in mind that the correction necessary could be at your feet and not just the head. The way you carry your body weight makes a big impact on your gun mount. Always feel extended over your toes. Once you find the correction needed, incorporate it into your mount so it becomes one fluid motion and not a separation of movements.
Check your pupil to rib alignment by practicing gun mounts in front of the mirror.
4) Learn to Focus and Eliminate Distractions
The previous tips are designed to embed muscle memory into proper wing-shooting mechanics. The truth of the matter is good wing shooting is 90% focus. You can have a swing that rivals the very best in major league baseball but if you can’t see the stitches on the ball you are still not going to hit it out of the park. Even though focus is mental and not muscular it can be practiced and must be practiced. But we do not have to be at the range or use the gun. The problem when the bird flushes or presents itself is we look at the largest part of the bird or, even more so, we are distracted by the wing beats. When taking a walk, working in the garden or anything that gets us outside, look only at the head of the blue jay, dove, woodpecker or whatever flies by. Make the wing beats part of your subconscious vision and the head absolutely clear as a bell.
Always focus on the target.
It was always thought that wing shooting was something you were naturally good at or not. The truth of the matter is it is a sport like any other and with practice, practice, practice you will significantly up your game.
Unless Lars Jacob is running dogs, wetting a fly line or turkey hunting, everything he does revolves around shotgunning. Jacob has been teaching the finer art of wingshooting for over 30 years. He has run programs and gun rooms for the Dutch River Club, Covey & Nye and Orvis Company to name a few. Jacob is the founder and CEO of Lars Jacob Wingshooting, LLC and LJW Roving Syndicate. In addition to instruction, Jacob is recognized as one of the country’s finest gun fitters and recently worked with Perazzi’s Al Kondak to develop the Perazzi Ladies Sporter. He has a soft spot for side-by-sides and has introduced thousands of shooters to the nuances associated with shooting such shotguns. For more information visit www.larsjacobwingshooting.com.