The fundamentals of shooting a shotgun are vital to becoming a successful wing or target shooter. There are many things that contribute to actually hitting the target. In the next article we will talk about avoiding mental breakdowns. First things, first, we must look in depth at what the fundamentals shooting a shotgun are.
- Stance . Your stance when shooting a shotgun is different from shooting other guns. The placement of your feet is critical in having a smooth motion when taking a shot. For right handed shooters, stand with your left foot in front of your right, about shoulder width apart or just under. Shift your weight slowly toward your lead foot to help brace yourself for the recoil of the shotgun. If the bird is coming directly at you, or going away, this is the perfect stance. Unfortunately, in the real world birds come from every angle possible. Remember to shift your feet and open your shoulders in the direction the bird is coming from. By doing this you will gain a greater kill zone and have a more fluid swing. For left handed shooters the stance is exactly opposite. Remember, if you pull the trigger with your right hand, the right foot goes back and if you pull the trigger left handed, the left foot goes back. A good stance and good footwork are the first steps to shooting a shotgun accurately. It is inevitable that during a dove hunt there will times when your stance is off because of dove surpriving you. They will come from all angles and sometimes you will not see them until you are already behind the eight ball, it's okay. If you have the time to get your feet right, do it. In the times you do not, your other mechanisms will be more critical in making the shot.
- Mount. This is simply how you place the shotgun against you shoulder and prepare to shoot the bird. The stance and the mount go hand in hand and are done almost simultaneously., Especially when dove hunting. The stock of the shotgun goes in the pocket of your shoulder slightly on the pectoral muscle. Keep it very tight as this will limit the amount of bruising from the recoil. Tilt your head slightly so that your eyes are looking down the barrel of the shotgun. The top of the stock should be touching the side of your jaw bone. Your off hand (the one not pulling the trigger) supports the forend of the gun. Again, it easy to get a good mount when target shooting, but when dove hunting it's real easy to have a bad mount when you are hurrying to get a shot off. I can not tell you how many times I've ended up with a bruised cheeked bone or shoulder because of a bad mount. By doing this it increases the difficulty of the shot dramatically. When you begin to take a shot getting your mount right ensures you are seeing the bird from the right perspective and the barrel is at the correct angle, which in turn increases accuracy and consistency. The bottom line is it's worth the extra split second to get it right.
- Eyes. Pretty self explanatory, you would think anyway. Most shotgunners say to shoot with both eyes open. Unlike rifles and pistols where you are seldom shooting a moving target, all of your shots on dove will be moving. I'm going to give you what some would call bad advice, but it works for me. I close one eye on shots that are straight on, either going away or coming at me. These shots require little barrel movement and usually require a straight shot at the bird, so basically aim and shoot, that's why I close one eye. I'll admit though, these type of shots are very rare when hunting dove. When shooting crossing shots (and all others), I leave both eyes open. I find with one eye closed on a crossing shot I'm almost always behind the bird. A good way to find out what works best for you is shooting skeet. Shoot a round leaving both eyes open on all the stations, then closing one eye on all stations and evalute your successes and failures. Whatever you decide works best, do not change it. Consistency is key, do the same thing every time.
- Swing . Imagine, you've spotted a bird, you've got your feet right, shouldered the gun and have your eyes right, now all you have to do is shoot right, wrong. What you have to do is get your swing right. Here muzzle speed and finding the right line is vital and is different on virtually every shot. If a dove is crossing but going away your muzzle speed will be slower than a dove just crossing. Finding the right line simply means following the line the dove is on. The last thing in your swing is your follow through. Just like a good golfer, basketball player, or bowler you must follow through your shot. Do not stop on the target, keep the swing and line even after you shoot. Doing this will keep you from stopping on the target and shooting behind it. The mechanics of your swing is something that must be practiced, once again shooting skeet is a great way to practice your mechanics.
There seems to be a lot to shooting a shotgun, but all these things happen in a blink of an eye. Practice, practice, practice. There are tons of articles on the different types of shotgunners, find out what works for you and stay consistent. The last thing you want to do is try to change your form in the middle of a hunt. Do not let negativity set in. It can destroy everything you've practiced and turn a fun time into an aggravating experience. Stick to your fundamentals, be consistent, and always have fun.