Any keeper will get his game birds flying as high as possible, wherever possible.

For him, there’s nothing worse than birds coming over the gun line too low. On a walked-up day, however, they won’t always be so obliging – particularly woodcock or snipe.

Snipe have a definite zig-zag pattern to their flight when first flushed which can really throw you, and the same goes for woodcock which have a somewhat random, erratic, left/right, up/down – and then swirl all over the place when flying between the trees.

I defy anyone to ‘read’ where these birds are going to go!

Having said all this, they are hittable if you adopt a sensible approach. Although there are a few sporting layouts around the country that emulate walked up shooting (the shooter breaks an infra-red beam as he walks, which in turn triggers the trap).

However these set-ups are few and far between.

To practice on a normal layout the only thing I can suggest is the trapper releases a variety of birds at random. In the early days you’ll probably miss more than you hit, but this exercise will definitely sharpen up your reflexes and concentrate your mind on achieving a smooth gun mount.

Woodcock flight path.

The important thing is to get onto the target as quickly as you can. In the blink of an eye you need to raise the gun to your shoulder, remembering that in the real world (off range) you’d also have to consider instantly whether the shot you wish to take is safe.

When faced with snipe, woodcock or bolting rabbits you never have the luxury of being able to ‘sit them on the bead of the muzzle’ before squeezing the trigger.

You must concentrate totally on the target, swing smoothly and shoot instinctively.

  • Jon Collier

    Bloody big snipe!