Maine Hunting, the heavenly activity where game is plentiful and your scenery majestic. This is the missed shot I repeat over and over in my head. Picture this…
The bird flushed. I shot. The bird kept flying.
Before I could get the second shot off, my dad dropped it in a cloud of feathers.
In case watching my dad drop what should have been my bird wasn’t bad enough, my genius of a Labrador ran out, picked it up and brought it back.
Apparently so I could hand deliver it as penance for my poor shooting. Whose side is he on anyway?
Everyone Misses. Did you notice I haven’t mentioned yet what kind of bird it was that I missed? Yet, I’m guessing you have an image in your mind of what the scene looked like. Maybe you’re envisioning pheasant hunting in Northern Maine. Or maybe this sounds more like Maine grouse hunting. Either way, I bet you can relate. We’ve all been there.
Why do we miss? There are a ton of reasons why we miss what ought to be easy shots. Here are some of the issues that have plagued me over the years.
Rushing the shot
Growing up hunting next to my dad, I thought for the longest time that I just needed to shoot faster. But clearly, that wasn’t the case. All I ended up doing was missing faster. Then not only did Dad get the bird, but he had a little something extra to razz me about.
Remember this: Speed means nothing if it sacrifices accuracy.
Solution: Stop rushing the shot. Focus on mastering the fundamentals and shooting accurately (See #2 below). The speed will come naturally.
Forgetting the fundamentals of shooting
When a bird explodes into the sky, our brains tend to go a bit haywire. We rush the shot. Or we forget the follow through. Or whatever.
Solution: take the thinking out of it and focus on the fundamentals.
To hit a moving target with a shotgun, follow these fundamental steps:
- See and then train your focus on the target
- Raise the gun, mount it properly (see #3 below)
- Swing through the target
- Pull the trigger once you establish the necessary lead
- Follow through
It should go without saying that practice is critical to getting this right. Spend some time working on this sequence with clay birds either at a trap range or with a portable thrower. Start slow and focus on the mechanics until they become second nature. Focus on the shot only after you get everything else right.
Poor gun fit
Sure, this sounds like a great excuse but gun fit is just as important (and just as often ignored) as properly fitted golf clubs, ball gloves, or any other sporting equipment. You should never have to lower your head to the stock of a properly fitting gun. Doing so tilts your eyes off the horizontal plane on which they’re used to operating. It therefore lowers your ability to see targets moving side to side.
You can’t shoot well if you can’t see well.
Solution – Usually, gun fit can be improved by adjusting how high or low your hold it against your shoulder. Practice your hold until you can raise the gun and sight down the barrel without lowering your head to the stock. Fair warning: It may be a hard habit to break.
You can also improve fit by raising the comb, another name for the top of the stock where your cheek rests. I’ve done this using adhesive backed foam padding from the local craft store. You can also buy comb raising kits that slip over (such as this one) or strap onto your gun stock.
Have you ever patterned your shotgun?
Most people haven’t. We just trust store-bought ammo to shoot well. Unfortunately, sometimes it doesn’t.
Solution – Pattern your gun using the actual ammo and chokes you use in the field.
I once spent an afternoon with my hunting buddies patterning several different brands and types of shotgun ammo through several different guns. We found that different guns pattern differently, even if the chokes are consistent. We also found that a higher tag price did not translate to better patterns.
Buyer beware, right?
So on your next Maine bird hunting trip, hopefully these tips will help you add more birds to the bag. If not, at least you’ll know why your dad has more in his.
Camp Katahdin is a luxury hunting retreat in Northern Maine. Our 15 person Hunting Lodge is set in the most beautiful hunting grounds in the Katahdin area. Step out the door and walk, ATV, or snowmobile to prime hunting locations. Then, come back and rest easy in our new luxury lodge. We are commercially zoned for Pheasant hunting – that means, no license needed, 7 days a week hunts.
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