It's the perennial question for gameshooters. But what's the answer?
Is it a partridge?
- A partridge’s rapid, whirring, wing beat and small body size certainly gives the impression of greater speed
- However the bigger, heavier, pheasant is actually the faster – which means both birds need different lead requirements.
- A detail nicely illustrated in the image above, which gives the flight speed of all game birds.
- In short, the pheasant needs lead more than his smaller cousin.
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- To do the partridge justice and avoid missing in front, I suggest you cut back the lead by 1/3 or even a 1/2 of what you’re serving up for the pheasant and see what happens.
- Half the fun of game shooting a ‘mixed drive’ is in being able to make instant (and correct) adjustments when you’re faced with a partridge and pheasant in the air at the same time, and heading in your direction.
- To pull off a clean right and left in these circumstances is very satisfying indeed.
How can you hit a curling pheasant?
Nobody I’ve ever met can equate (or properly explain) how far the muzzles need to be ahead of – and inside – the bird’s line of flight to bring about a successful shot.
The biggest imponderable is the strength of the wind 30 or more yards up there, and which direction it’s coming from. In a light side breeze a good Shot might say he’s a foot or 18 inches inside the curl of the bird and eight feet in front of the beak. Yet in a really strong wind he might be as far inside the line of the bird as he is ahead of it!
Move to another drive on the same shoot and that wind might now be quartering into the pheasant, or coming from behind. If it is, the ‘picture’ that worked so well for you only half an hour earlier might now be miles off the mark.
Time to practise
The more often you shoot driven birds the easier it should become to adjust to the conditions. However an element of trial and error will still take place.
When you do kill a bird cleanly the secret is to retain the pheasant/muzzle image at the time you squeezed the trigger, and repeat it for subsequent shots.
Now for the bird crossing between you and a neighbour. If the wind is taking it away from your position you need to remember that as well shooting in front of the beak you also need to be underneath the bird. Even if your forward lead is right, if you simply swing ahead in a straight line without taking the wind into account your shot will miss over the top of the bird. Equally, you will need to shoot above a crossing pheasant that’s being pushed towards you in a strong wind.