OOPS - MISSED!
The editor takes a long, hard look at his weakest position
Posture and practice are the buzz words for those awkward shots, says Phill Price
Iwas put under pressure recently on one of my permissions, to remove jackdaws as they tried to nest in a cottage chimney. I casually accepted the challenge, fully expecting to be able to find a good spot overlooking the roof from where I could shoot. I would then arrange a stable support, such as a fence, a tree or shooting sticks to maximise my accuracy. The thing was, I just couldn’t find anywhere to hide. Next, I thought I’d watch where the birds were going to get building materials and try to intercept them there.
After a couple of long, frustrating attempts to get them in range, I was having no luck, and the ‘ I thought you were an expert’ kind of comments were getting uncomfortable. Back in the woods, a jackdaw settled onto a branch 90° to my right, 25 yards away, and I knew it was now or never to make a telling shot. Twisting my torso uncomfortably, I put the sight onto the bird’s head, snatched at the trigger … and missed! There followed many rude, unprintable words as the bird flew away unharmed. As I write they’re still up there and because they now have young, my landowner wants them left - for now.
I very rarely ever shoot off hand and I think that’s what let me down when I needed to shoot straight. Because I don’t shoot well like this, I avoid it like the plague, which surely makes me worse. There’s an old shooting saying which is ‘practise what you’re worst at’ and I felt that it was what I needed to do.
It was simple enough. I took a nice quiet rifle, set up paper targets in my back garden and went about remembering what to do. First, was to get my feet naturally positioned to reduce strain in my hold. Next, was to raise the rifle smoothly to the aim whilst bringing my finger to the trigger. Finally, breathe in and then slowly exhale, lowering the sights slowly onto the bull’s eye. The trigger breaks without conscious thought and I maintain follow-through until I see the hole appear in the paper.
Quality over quantity
I believe that short sessions, in which you do everything as well as you can, are more valuable than long sessions when you get sloppy with your technique. Has my off-hand shooting improved? I believe so, and it does at least feel less uncomfortable when I need to shoot this way. I hope that next time I’m under pressure to make a shot count, I’ll be ready for it!
“Twisting my torso uncomfortably, I put the sight onto the bird’s head, snatched at the trigger … and missed!”
Above: Correct posture and technique are more important than the number of shots you fire