The home of Shooting Times and Sporting Gun

Why is the back bird so hard to master when grouse shooting?

Q. Last season I enjoyed my best ever grouse days and feel very confident when grouse shooting, but why is the back bird so hard to master?

Grouse shooting back bird

A. You are not alone with this. Many of my grouse shooting clients say the same and I would agree that it’s one of the hardest game birds to shoot. Why? I can break this down into three main reasons: footwork, movement and connection.

Footwork is an important part of good shooting, but when  gunning for partridges and pheasants I think most people move their feet without thinking too much. For instance, if the bird is over to the right then the front foot will move right as you start to mount of the gun. When you move like this your weight will transfer forward as you take the shot. It is similar to batting in cricket and hitting a cover drive.

But when you move in a grouse butt to shoot the back bird, you need to think about moving your feet and learn the best method. It is crucial to transfer your weight from your front foot after shooting that driven bird to your back foot, then turn, place your front foot where you connect to the back bird and your weight can then move forward again. You should now be in the same shooting position you were in to shoot the front bird.

Having done all this moving and turning it is important that you are still with your head and body when you mount the gun at the back bird. Sadly, one of the big reasons we miss this back bird is we are still moving when we mount the gun. This is a major problem. Think about all the ball sports you have played or tried to play over the years. It is fundamental to have a still head when hitting the ball. This is the same when mounting your gun; you must be still to establish the right connection with the bird.

And as anyone who has read my advice before will know, I regard a shooter’s ‘connection’ with the bird to be the most important factor when making a good shot and I cannot repeat this enough. Making a good connection with the back bird is absolutely vital to hitting the target. Make sure you connect your muzzle to the back of the going-away bird and, with a still head and good footwork, this tricky shot may become a little easier. Good luck and enjoy the best variety of shooting of them all.

Thank you to Edward Watson for this expert answer. He is a former instructor at the West London Shooting School and is now a freelance shooting consultant.
Do you have a question for Dr Watson? If so then email: [email protected]