As an instructor I get to watch many shooters tackling both clays and driven game.
Improve your game shooting technique
To develop advanced technique, one has to be a bit adventurous. No one likes missing, but you must come to accept it, and there is no better way to learn.
You should not shoot just to support your ego or kill indiscriminately, but to explore the limits of what you are capable of and to glory in the traditions of the sport. These traditions demand that you should have a go when a good opportunity arrives and not just rest easy. But don’t take that as a licence to bang away at 70- or 80-yard birds.
Faced with a covey of partridge or large flush of pheasants, it pays to get out of your comfort zone and pick the most testing bird when game shooting.
Try shooting some of the birds you might normally leave – the ones just a little higher than you like and those at awkward angles that always seem to lead to inexplicable misses if you think about what you’re doing too much.
You might also take the deliberate decision to stop shooting at many of the birds that you are usually fairly confident of bagging. In this process you may initially miss a few more than usual but you are on the road to becoming a better and more sporting shot.
For good game shooting you should always give the quarry a sporting chance.
Don’t just talk about really good birds, start shooting them and not worrying so much about the kill-to-cartridge ratio and what the neighbouring gun is thinking of your performance.
To shoot these tougher birds you need to change your approach and be up for the challenge.
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Preparation for more ambitious shooting
- Have an eye test
- Confirm which eye is dominant
- Check your gun fit and make sure your firearm truly points to where your eye or eyes are looking
To improve your game shooting you have to take on more challenging shots. Don’t rest on your laurels if you want to get better.
Many middle-aged driven game shooters will discover their eye-dominance has altered and that a bit of extra cast will help them keep on line with the bird. More than a few struggle with guns that are low in the comb too, which may be perfectly fine until you attempt to take a higher bird with a little bit of cheek pressure. If the front bead disappears, the wrong eye may take over with disastrous and typically very perplexing consequences.
Confidence in your equipment becomes a particular issue on tougher birds. Are you happy with your guns, your cartridges, your choking?
I have tried a lot of cartridges, but I now stick to 30 gram 5s for just about everything except duck throughout the season. I have certainly found that moving from 6s to 5s has improved my kills and given me more confidence – I see this as all being part of the positive circle.
Make sure there are no holes in your technique
Train well and shooting ‘naturally’ becomes easier. It should be from the ground up: first you must ensure your stance is not impeding you.
That means a stable stance with the feet not too far apart, and no ungainly body position such as leaning too far forward, bending both knees, or letting the weight come onto the rear foot by accident. At the moment you take the shot, the rear foot for most people will want to be at about 90 degrees to the anticipated kill point for the bird, and that may well entail moving the feet. Nothing too exaggerated, just take a little step into the line of the bird when required, with the front foot and gun barrels moving together as if connected by an invisible wire.
Occasionally, if you are flank gun and there is a fast bird to the open side, it may be appropriate to transfer the weight onto the right foot.
I prefer a relaxed stance that keeps the weight predominantly on the left foot all the time (assuming you are right-handed).
For natural, instinctive game shooting
- Both hands must be in position to exert maximum control for minimum effort.
- The rear hand should be comfortable and not twisted relative to the stock, and the web of the hand should not be too high on the grip of the gun.
- To get into a perfect position, just pat the side of the butt with the open rear hand and slide it straight forward onto the grip – it will take up a perfect position without exerting great effort.
- The front hand should not be in any state of tension either.
- Extend the arm half in front of you, palm down, rotate the hand up and let the fore-end drop into it.
- The front hand should not be too far forward or there will be a tendency to check the swing and pull yourself off line, too.
If your gun fits well and you know you have the right cartridges and choke, you will have the confidence to take your game shooting to the next level. All these things should be sorted well before you get to the shooting field.
The front arm is critical to instinctive game shooting because it lifts and points the gun – all natural game shooting really requires is efficient lifting and pointing combined with good focus. Most of the time, all you are going to do is glue your vision onto the bird, point the gun at its tail-feathers, move smoothly through and take the shot as you see the gap open. Don’t over think it. Game shooting – it’s all in the mind
One good, really memorable bird is worth 20 average ones in any true sportsman’s game book.