We’re not talk­ing Devon­shire sky­scrapers here, more your av­er­age 30-yard bird. But what­ever its height – or your abil­ity – fol­low Steve’s ad­vice to en­sure you kill it cleanly

Sporting Shooter - - Contents - WITH STEVE RAWSTHORNE

Our step-by-step guide on how to shoot

Ihear so many shoot­ers these days de­mand­ing ul­tra-high pheas­ants and oth­ers say­ing: “I only shoot high birds”. Not sur­pris­ingly, there is now a plethora of shoots cater­ing to this de­mand, at a premium price of course. Some pro­duce star­tling re­sults, oth­ers less so.

An av­er­age de­cent pheas­ant will be around 25 to 30 yards high and for the av­er­age shooter with a nor­mal game load of 30 or 32g in a nor­mal game gun, be it over-and-un­der or side-by-side, this is about right. If you think I am putting it too low, re­mem­ber that an oak or beech tree will be around 60’ (or 20 yards) high and most Guns will hap­pily shoot birds com­ing over them, or even look on them as ‘high birds’ and en­joy the sport.

Given the abil­ity of the av­er­age shooter, this is about where they should be. It is not tar­get prac­tice – if we shoot at some­thing live, we have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to kill it cleanly. Wounded or pricked birds do us no credit.

If you want to be good at some­thing, prac­tise. You do it for golf, ten­nis, darts, so why not shoot­ing? Think how much a day in the field costs – whether you pay for it or some­one else does, you need to make the best of it, so pre­pare prop­erly with a les­son or two well be­fore the sea­son and check your gun, ear­muff bat­ter­ies etc.

Only last week I saw a chap open his gun case to find his beloved was cov­ered in rust. It had been sit­ting in it since the last time he shot, months ago, when it had not been cleaned prop­erly. Any­way, if your gun needs ser­vic­ing, it’s prob­a­bly too late now! At this time of year the gun­smiths are al­ways in­cred­i­bly busy with peo­ple who left it too late, so it could eas­ily take three months to have it re­turned.

On the peg

If you have done your pre-sea­son prepa­ra­tion, you will have your tech­nique all sorted out. When

you ar­rive on your peg, work out where the front of your drive will be – i.e. where most of the birds that will come over you will ar­rive from. If that is twelve o’clock, and you are a right-han­der, set your feet up at one and three o’clock.

You are go­ing to stand up straight, not slumped, aren’t you? Feet not too far apart, four to six inches at the heels is plenty. If you look in some shoot­ing pho­tos you will see plenty of shoot­ers with their weight on the back foot, arched back and head off the gun. This will not be you, will it?

In an ideal world... will be an ex­am­ple to all, stand­ing straight with the gun butt tucked up un­der your arm. The weight of the gun will be on the front hand, with the muz­zles po­si­tioned be­tween your eyes and the tops of the trees where you ex­pect the birds to come from. Your weight will be evenly dis­trib­uted, not heavy on ei­ther the front or back foot. As you see your pheas­ant, your front hand should push the muz­zles for­ward to lock onto the tail of the bird, not be­hind it, the gun mov­ing with the bird now, on the same line and at the same speed as the tar­get.

As the comb comes into your cheek, about where the teeth meet in­side your cheek, your shoul­der should push for­ward to meet the butt. Then, ap­ply the cor­rect lead and fol­low through, and watch as the bird crum­ples to the adu­la­tion and amaze­ment of your fel­low Guns. Hav­ing shot the first bird well out in front, stay fo­cused and you can then move on to take the sec­ond bird over your head, dropping it neatly at the feet of a picker-up 80 yards be­hind.

That’s how it should work, any­way.

Rights and wrongs

While it is not my per­sonal favourite, the ‘swing through’ method can work. To shoot it well, as you mount the gun onto the tar­get, you should be mov­ing with it, like our straight-driven pheas­ant, on its tail. When you com­plete the mount, you then just speed up a lit­tle, still un­der con­trol, and when you have passed the beak, fire and fol­low through.

To­day, too many Guns mount miles be­hind the bird with a ‘dead gun’ (i.e. not mov­ing with the tar­get at all) then slash wildly af­ter it. When your brain re­alises you have gone too far past the tar­get, the gun usu­ally stops dead, fol­lowed by a yank on the trig­ger and ev­ery now and then you will knock one or two down. It is not the most ef­fec­tive way to shoot. If you are go­ing to change your method, best to do it be­fore the sea­son, not dur­ing, and prac­tise. A lot!

The quar­ter­ing tar­get, where the bird flies be­tween you and the neigh­bour­ing Gun, re­ally suits ‘method’ as a tech­nique. Mount the gun onto the tar­get, push­ing for­ward with the front hand, lock­ing the muz­zles un­der its chin. A shot­gun is de­signed to put one third of its pat­tern on and above the point of ‘aim’, (we don’t aim with a shot­gun, do we?).

When the comb comes into the cheek and the shoul­der pushes into the stock, ap­ply lead, fire and fol­low through. You will need to turn onto the bird, other­wise you will roll off the line of the bird. If the bird is quar­ter­ing to your right, this means your right shoul­der will rise and your left drop, so that the line through your shoul­ders mir­rors the line of the bird. For the bird to the left, the left shoul­der rises and the right drops. In ei­ther of these moves, if you bend your rear leg, the ef­fect is to cause you to lean back, mean­ing your head will come up off the stock, you will miss above the tar­get and you’ll suf­fer ex­cess re­coil.

These birds look quite high, but they are well pre­sented

In so many shoot­ing pho­tos you will see a Gun stand­ing like this. You will never be great like this, as when the bird ap­pears you will be mov­ing the muz­zles in the op­po­site di­rec­tion to the tar­get, i.e. back­wards to go for­wards.

From the pre­vi­ous start­ing po­si­tion you end up like this: head off the stock, back arched, weight on the back foot... one of the ‘also rans’. that you can take the sec­ond bird of the pair over­head. When you fin­ish the shot, there should be a straight line through the bar­rels, your shoul­der, right hip and leg to your foot.

Killing the first bird out in front...

Start­ing the shot, butt tucked up un­der the arm, fo­cused across the muz­zles on the tar­get.

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