A reader want to know how to improve his technique with one of the most difficult shots. Adam Calvert gives some advice ...

Q: Any tips for bringing down those fast, curling pheasants that have the wind at their backs?

A: Curling pheasants can be one of the most difficult shots in the book, particularly if you add wind and height. Often when pheasants have got the wind behind them they can dive or stoop, making them even more challenging.

Good ready position

The first thing I like to do is start with a good ready position, muzzle just below an imaginary line drawn between your eye and the bird. That way you can see the muzzle in your peripheral vision and as a result guide it onto the bird without having to glance back to the gun to see where it is.

  • Next, start to slowly mount the gun, making sure the gun speed matches the target speed. I imagine I am shining a torch beam just behind the bird throughout the mounting process – keeping in mind a pheasant will glide when it is approaching or is at top speed.
  • This is the point when you should be concentrating not only on matching the speed but also the line. If you are controlling the gun effectively and concentrating hard enough then subtle line changes should be detected, thus allowing you to compensate.
  • The next phase is the collection phase. The gun is fully mounted now, with your muzzle point where you want to come in on the bird. For me this is the head of the bird but for many it will be the tail. Neither is right or wrong, but practice on a shooting ground will allow you to work out what’s best for you. The collection phase takes half a second, no more, otherwise you will be ‘on the’ bird too long and be tempted to check back to the gun.
  • The final phase is to pick up the gun speed and add the lead and allowing your natural instinct to squeeze the trigger at the appropriate moment, being careful to keep the gun moving as the shot is taken and not break the swing until the bird is dead.
  • If shooting the bird as a crosser watch out for pheasants which are in fact dropping, this is caused by the wind pushing the birds down. As a result, it is incredibly easy to shoot over the top of them.