New Ways To Shoot Old Birds

by Chris McCotter

With the new year, we all eagerly welcome the chance to hit the “reset” button. This rebirth is a way to shake off the old and start anew. But, what if some of your old habits are the only thing you know? How do you break that cycle of consistent inconsistency in your shooting? Are you sure you are employing every tool in your toolbox to create success?

  Shooters, like all humans, thrive on structure and discipline. Even those that claim they prefer a more loose and fast approach (shoot whatever you see however you can) deep down inside long for the coveted ability to know. Know why they can hit certain birds but not others. Know what they did wrong to cause a miss and most importantly know how to fix it!

   This new year, make a commitment (one that will actually last unlike all the diet challenges) and learn new ways to crush those old, irritating presentations. Too many shooters get mired down in just one or two methods of shooting. They either aren’t willing to learn a new method, or they may not realize that there are other methods to kill a bird, clay or feathered.

  There are five distinct methodologies a shooter will pull from based on the presentation. Please remember that if you don’t understand how to set excellent hold points, the method you select won’t matter. 

  First, and most commonly used is Pull Away. This method is rooted deeply in the West London Shooting School for a very good reason. It works! At the hold point, the shooter will insert on the bird, go with it for just a moment and then pull ahead and pull the trigger. Let’s break this method out a little further, since it is the backbone for so many shooters.

   The hold point needs to be in or slightly under the flight path of the bird. As the bird comes to the barrel, the gun begins to move out with the bird maintaining the flight path. At the determined break point, the shooter pulls ahead of the bird the required distance based on angle and speed. As they pull the trigger, the bird shatters. The majority of your birds can be killed with Pull Away.

  Second, Swing Through. This is one of my favorite methods for quickly eliminating a bird in a pair. It’s also fantastic for dropping multiple feathered birds in a covey. Again, the barrel has to be in the bird’s flight path. The hold point for this method is set closer to the launch area so that the bird can easily pass the barrel. As the bird passes the barrel, the shooter pushes the gun through the back of the bird, moving to the front and as the shooter comes through the front of the bird, pulls the trigger. Measuring is not needed as the pure motion of the gun adds in the required lead. This method will allow a shooter to drop a bird far faster.

  Third, Churchill. Yes, as in Robert Churchill. He realized that if one could quickly point at an object with their shotgun, the same way they do their finger, they should be able to drop game. This is all dependent on the shooter having a well-fitted gun, a clean sight picture and smooth mount to the cheek and shoulder. This method is deadly on flushing game up to 25 yards. It falls apart after that as the presentation at distance will require lead or adjustment for angle.

  Fourth, Maintained/Sustained Lead. Skeet shooters know this method well. The shooter needs to, you guessed it, be in the bird’s flight path but this time, the shooter pulls ahead of the bird and stays ahead of the bird while pulling the trigger. It’s a great method to use when the shooter is either very experienced in reading the target for speed and angle or the shooter is very well versed in repetitive shots, such as on a skeet field. 

  Finally, Straight Line Intercept. This is sometimes also referred to as Diminishing Lead. The shooter sets up in the bird’s path makes a momentary connection with the bird then instead of continuing the flight line with the bird, the shooter runs the barrel a significant distance under the flight line and intercepts the bird at the break point. It works wonderfully on chandelles! 

No matter your preferred method, branch out and have fun learning new ones. There is more than one way to crush a clay or drop a feathered bird. Fill your toolbox and give yourself the advantage. Be sure to take a friend or family member along so they can learn along with you! Happy New Year everyone and see you on the course or in the hunt field.

Kate Ahnstrom, owner of Virginia Shooting Sports is a certified, professional instructor of the Paragon School of Sporting, pro staff Syren/Caesar Guerini, resident pro Orapax Hunting Preserve, Artemis ambassador for Va, and field staff member of the Sisterhood of the Outdoors. Her tireless dedication to her students’ success is obvious in each and every lesson.

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