Adam Calvert is a freelance shooting instructor with a global reputation, offering bespoke shooting instruction in addition to being a Fabbri ambassador.
QI struggle with shooting birds that can be seen flying over distant woodland. Can you give me any tips?
AThis is something most of my clients struggle with, particularly if the birds are coming from an elevated area. Before describing how to successfully shoot them, I’ll outline a few things that are often going on with these birds.
The birds are often gliding if they are coming from a long way off, appearing to be moving slowly, when in fact they are flying are at, or are nearly at, top speed. These birds rarely flap their wings when gliding, so it is hard for us to focus on them, as there is little movement for our eyes to lock onto, and the higher the birds are in the sky, the more difficult it is for us to judge exactly what direction they are going to fly in.
A bird (pheasant or partridge) flying from far away can be massively affected by wind, often appearing to be heading towards peg No.5 but ending up crossing over into peg No.9, an outcome most Guns don’t take into consideration. I often witness Guns shooting very late at these birds, trying to decide whether it is their bird or not, and it is not unusual for three or four Guns to shoot at the same bird, all believing it is theirs.
Now that we are starting to understand what the bird is doing, we can try and understand how to shoot it. Put simply, timing is everything. Once you have made up your mind that the bird is definitely yours, you need to decide when to shoot. As a bird is approaching, let it commit to a ‘line’, and then very quickly predict the flight path that the bird will travel along, as this will allow you to pick a point to shoot at it, giving you enough time to adjust your footwork.
A successful shot requires you to instinctively shoot when the bird is at the point you have chosen. A common mistake is to start the shooting process once the bird is already at the ‘kill point’, as the shot will be too late. Another error is to start the process too early, getting onto the bird before it has reached your chosen point, only to hesitate and check the shot as it arrives.
In summary, let the bird commit to a 'line', have your footwork set correctly, get your timing right and then shoot instinctively, resisting the urge to check the swing of the gun. Most importantly, enjoy it when the bird is shot cleanly and tumbles to the floor, as this kind of bird is usually being watched by a whole line of appreciative Guns.
Gliding birds are often travelling faster than they appear, so your timing and footwork need to be spot on.