Mark Russell believes you need an instinctive feel when you're roost shooting pigeons but you can practice it
As soon as the game season finishes, you should really try to be out as often as you can. At least one day every weekend ought to be spent in the pursuit of these tasty but formidable pests.
As a farmer I know how much damage pigeons can do, so I urge you all to do your bit for conservation and get stuck in.
Pest control aside, if you get a chance to have a crack at this most sporting of birds, do so. the sheer unpredictability of their flight patterns, coupled with the birds’ natural speed and ability to turn and veer off on a sixpence will sharpen your shooting skills more than anything I know.
however, unless you’re a demon decoyer, one of the most efficient ways of getting a decent bag is to hit the woodies when they’re coming back to roost.
Top tip to improve roost shooting
To develop an instinctive flair for shooting your gun mounting must be absolutely spot on. Equally important, your gun must fit properly too. If the gun doesn’t come up to your shoulder and face in exactly the same position every time there’ll always be some degree of error and the hand, gun, eye relationship will be lost. The gun must be an extension of your arms and body. If this isn’t already the case, only practice (in front of a mirror often helps) will make perfect.
Out of sight
The roost shooting technique is pretty simple. get yourself tucked out of sight just inside the edge of a wood where you know woodies roost (droppings on the floor below certain trees are a good indicator of roosting sites).
Make sure you’re there well before dusk and then wait. Keeping your head down – and staying incredibly still and quiet – you simply lie in wait ready to ambush the birds when they appear.
Typically though, the birds will often appear out of the blue so you must keep a sharp lookout and your wits about you at all times.
At this point you’re relying on your snap shooting skills to kill the birds as they flit between the trees, sporting birds admittedly, but how can you practice for this type of shooting.
Hitting any target should, on paper at least, be a relatively straightforward and simple process. Make sure your stance is correct and mount the gun properly. Swing the muzzles ahead of the bird and pull the trigger. Simple!
In reality, though, while most of this is easy for a coach to demonstrate and teach, it’s that niggling little last bit that always seems to be the bugbear for a vast number of shooters. No matter what level of skill the shooter has attained, it’s always the same old question at the back of their mind. How much do you need to be ahead of a bird before you pull the trigger? This is where developing a ‘feel’ for a bird is so important and crucial for snap shooting.
Here’s a couple of great ways to sharpen up your reflexes for snap shooting. I really must stress that these are simply exercises to help you get the ‘feel’ of a bird because, in reality, this goes against virtually everything I’ve always said about how to hit more targets.
Don’t watch the presentation of the bird get onto the stand, keep the gun just out of the shoulder pocket and call for the bird. Without knowing the speed and the trajectory of the bird you’ll simply have to react quickly. You’ve got to visually pick up the bird in the air, alter your stance if necessary, mount the gun while you’re mentally assessing the amount of lead required, swing and fire. And all in what seems like a blink of an eye. The end result is a typical snap shot. Sure, you’re probably going to miss more than you hit in the beginning, but simply persisting with this little exercise will make you a better shot in the long run.
Call then count to three
If you’ve seen the way the target is going to be presented and you know the flight path of the bird, make a conscious effort to delay your shot. Keep your gun and your head down, close your eyes or look at your feet if necessary. Call for the bird and count to three. When you raise your head the bird will be well on its way. Obviously you’re not going to have the time to worry about how you’re going to smash the clay, so instinct will take over. The result is a snap shot and you’re another step along the way to developing a ‘feel’ for a target.
When your gun mounting technique is correct every time, effective snapshooting comes about predominately by timing. The more you practice, the more you’ll get a feel for a target and you’ll get to know instinctively the precise moment to pull the trigger. What you must never do is hesitate. Whenever I see this happening it’s always because the shooter is trying extra hard to ‘make sure’ he hits the bird. By trying to improve the shot he’s undoing everything that his instincts have told him. In these situations as soon as you start thinking about what you’re doing (or trying to achieve) you’re almost certain to miss the bird.
You must always be ready and prepared to move your feet. A lot of the time a general stance (weight on the front foot, toe pointing toward the intended kill zone) will be sufficient to kill the majority of targets. That said, if a bird suddenly comes at you from an unexpected angle you must move your feet/body position to stand a reasonable chance of killing it.
If your overall stance (and by that I mean how you position your feet prior to pulling the trigger) is completely out of kilter with the way the bird is presented, you’ll almost certainly run out of swing, where your body physically can’t twist any more. If this is the case you’ll end up either dropping a shoulder, leaning into some backbreaking position, or rolling the gun so it’s out of the shoulder and not mounted correctly. Either way, you’ll probably miss. Even though you’re shooting purely on your reflexes, you must never accept a compromise when it comes to your shooting stance. Be prepared to move your feet either before, or during your gun mount.
Decent shooting technique
We’ve been looking at how sharpening the reflexes and utilising instinctive shooting can improve our kill rates. However, no shooter can rely on this and this alone. There’s never been a substitute for perfecting a decent shooting technique. Remember, make sure your gun fits you properly and you mount it correctly every time. Ensure your stance – moving your feet if necessary – is correct for the target and your swing is smooth. Then let instinct, coupled with your mental library of sight pictures take control when you pull the trigger.