Winged Wisdom: Get More Birds in Your Bag

by Kate Ahnstrom

The cold breezes chill your face as you walk familiar paths. The moody, gray winter skies set up perfect conditions for shooting, taking away everyone’s favorite excuse for missing,” the sun was right in my eyes at the trigger pull!”. The dogs are working on yet another point but, this time they would love for you to actually give them the chance to get feathers in their mouths. 

Often, I tell students that it is perfectly fine to get excited and sometimes whiff a shot. Hell, if you don’t get excited in this sport, then why are you doing it?! It is far more exciting to get that retrieve and with a few easy to implement strategies into your shooting routine, that is absolutely possible. This month, we look closer at gun mount on the flush and how you should be swinging on the bird. 

  One thing that must be set straight, that I dread hearing from a lifelong hunter, is that when hunting, you never know where the bird is going, and that clay shooting isn’t realistic for real hunters. Hmmmm. Well, every clay out there can easily mimic some sort of bird flight. And, for those that claim they never know where the bird is going, well you need to read your dogs. Every time Kai or Lacy Blues or Kimber or any of the dogs that we use in hunts hits a point, we have a very sound idea of where that bird is located. The angle of the dog’s head will tell you. The direction and speed of the wind will also let you know if you should expect the bird to turn on the rise to get the wind at its back or if it will flush straight ahead. 

How To Set Up For The Flush

  As you approach the dog, you should have your gun just off your side and the buttstock nestled into the crook of your elbow. This will allow you to quickly and smoothly get your gun up without interference from your vest or other clothing. If you are flushing the bird, you will appreciate being able to see under the gun and your arms with this slightly off-set position. The muzzle must be in your line of sight so that when the bird does flush, you will be able to track it smoothly with minimal muzzle movement, allowing you to insert directly onto the bird. If your muzzle is too high, you will spend too much time dipping and digging trying to get the gun into position. Putting the muzzle low puts the dogs in jeopardy and again causes poor muzzle management. 

Thrill Of The Flush

  As you move in front of the dogs, your muzzle in your line of sight and stock just off your side, use your off-side foot to push around in the cover. A right-side shooter will use their left foot for this work and vice versa. The birds know how to jump up when you are in mid-step or have the wrong foot forward. Everything we do should have a forward motion. As the bird flushes, you want the off-side foot planted just ahead so that you may lean forward into the shot allowing your cheek to mount the stock first and then settle into your shoulder. Your visual acuity of your target will be far clearer, and the sight picture of the necessary bird/barrel relationship will be almost instantaneous. 

Covey Calculations

  Implementing the above fundamentals will allow you to knock down more than a single bird. You will find that you have an abundance of time by starting your swing onto the bird at the first recognition of flush. Should you have the fortune of a covey, pick a single bird and stick with it until it drops. This is not only good sportsmanship but, you’re already locked into that sight picture and if a second shot is needed, it is far easier to make a tiny correction than to swing onto a whole different bird. The eyes are the fastest muscle in the body, and you should be working them in the field. When you drop the first bird, allow the gun to come off your face just a bit and use your eyes to softly scan for a second bird. Again, allow the gun to move smoothly into the bird and acquire the correct sight picture. If you need to take a moment to reload, keep your eyes up! This should be practiced so you don’t fumble with your gun and you’re able to either mark a downed bird or track escapees, so you know where to head for the next point.

  This holiday season, take a friend or family member into the hunt field and share the excitement of the hunt. From all of us here at Virginia Shooting Sports, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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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