Shooting Gazette - - This Month -

Adam Calvert is a free­lance shoot­ing in­struc­tor with a global rep­u­ta­tion, of­fer­ing be­spoke shoot­ing in­struc­tion in ad­di­tion to be­ing a Fab­bri am­bas­sador. Q Where is the best place to shoot a high pheas­ant — should your bar­rels ever go past 90°? A This is a ques­tion I am fre­quently asked and my an­swer is al­ways the same: when the bird is at its most vul­ner­a­ble.

When the bird is ap­proach­ing you, there will be a point at which the bird’s vi­tal or­gans are on show – ba­si­cally the front end of the bird and in par­tic­u­lar the head. I would never take a shot at a high bird if I could not see the head as this is al­ways my point of aim. Leave the shot too late, ei­ther over­head or out to the side, and you risk not be­ing able to hit a vi­tal or­gan and as a re­sult a wounded bird is more likely. A clas­sic ex­am­ple of this is an over­head shot that is taken too late – in other words, past 90° – and con­se­quently the Gun’s body runs out of move­ment and the bird is shot in the rear part of its body, wound­ing it, with no op­por­tu­nity to make a fol­lowup shot to fin­ish the job.

Look for the “sweet spot”

When the bird ap­pears at its most vul­ner­a­ble to you, many peo­ple re­fer to this as the “sweet spot” or “kill point”, but in ba­sic terms they all mean the same thing. This can vary slightly from Gun to Gun, so you need to be care­ful to use your own judge­ment. Please re­mem­ber the points I raised above about vi­tal or­gans and this will help you.

One thing I al­ways ask Guns to keep in mind when they are de­cid­ing when to shoot a bird is to al­ways make sure there is time for a sec­ond shot in or­der to cleanly despatch a wounded bird, if re­quired. A point I al­ways make to my clients is once a bird is wounded then the Gun (and oth­ers in the party) has a duty to try to despatch the bird.

Now we have es­tab­lished where the shot should be taken, the dif­fi­cult part be­gins in mak­ing sure the shot ac­tu­ally hap­pens at this op­ti­mum point. Most Guns de­cide to start the process of shoot­ing when the bird is at the point it should be shot. As a re­sult, the shot ends up late and is of­ten un­suc­cess­ful. This is a skill that can take time to ac­quire as you need to see lots of high pheas­ants to get it right. The key thing is start­ing the process of shoot­ing the bird at the right point in or­der to end up shoot­ing it at the vul­ner­a­ble point. Start too early and you will ei­ther shoot too early or mount the gun to the shoul­der and de­lay the shot, thus mak­ing the shot less nat­u­ral at best and re­sult­ing in a miss at worst. Start too late and you can of­ten end up try­ing to make the shot well past the bird’s vul­ner­a­ble point and cause your­self to be­come un­bal­anced.

The above can be prac­tised at a good shoot­ing school in or­der to de­velop the cor­rect tim­ing. If you get the op­por­tu­nity then a lot can be learned from sim­ply watch­ing a pro­fi­cient shot. Take time to stand back and watch his or her prepa­ra­tion be­fore mak­ing the shot to end up with the bird be­ing taken at the cor­rect point.

Tak­ing the bird out in front in­creases the chances of a clean kill.

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