TECHNIQUE: Get all the right moves for shooting pheasant
Don’t forget the five ‘P’s: proper preparation prevents poor performance – particularly on pheasants! Here, Steve Rawsthorne helps you lay the foundations for a successful season
If you have not already had your gun fitted, had the alterations done to it or had that service completed that you said you would at the end of last season, it is probably too late! At this time of year, most gun repair services are chock-a-block with guns that owners meant to get repaired and then forgot, and waiting times shoot up to two or three months. There are, however, several things you can do to ensure you have a better, more effective season, and the good news is they will cost you absolutely nothing.
Improving your gun mount is the single most effective thing you can do to increase your performance in the field. If every shooter spent 10 minutes, three times a week practising their gun mount in the weeks before the season, we would see a dramatic rise in the standard of game shooting. Done properly, it costs nothing and builds both muscle memory and muscle, but it does need to be done correctly or it just beds in bad practice. If your gun does not fit perfectly, it will also help you to adapt to it.
Take your unloaded gun into a spare room; it may be worth closing the curtains so as not to alarm the neighbours. On the long wall, halfway along the line where the wall meets the ceiling, stick a piece of Blu Tack or similar – this will be your ‘target’.
As a right-hander, adopt a position facing the mark, as far back from it as possible. Your right foot should be about parallel to the wall and your left at 45°ish; if the mark is 12 o’clock, your left foot would be at one o’clock and your right at three. Stand up straight and tuck the gun butt under your armpit so that the stock is caged between your upper chest and the inside of your upper arm.
With your front hand, bring the muzzles up so that you have a line from your eyes across the muzzles to the line on which you have the Blu Tack, not above, not below. Now turn your body all the way back to the left-hand end of the line, into the corner.
We are going to commence the mount at a quarter of normal speed. It is vital to do it right, so follow the sequence below absolutely. Lock your eyes onto the line at the top of the wall. Start the mount by pushing forward with the front hand, allowing the back hand to follow it. As you do so, you will also begin to turn along the line of your target, keeping the muzzles right on it. It is not mount in one movement and turn in another, the two are one complete sequence.
Keep your head up, pushing forward and along the line. As you do so, the comb of the stock will come into contact with the cheek, approximately where the teeth meet inside it. Now you push the shoulder forward into the butt. As you pass the mark, ‘fire’ and follow through to the far end corner of the line.
‘Improving your gun mount is the single most effective thing you can do to increase your performance in the field’
When I say ‘fire’, you can have the safety catch on and pull the trigger on an empty gun or use snap caps – never pull the trigger on an empty chamber as you can damage the strikers. Never pull the gun back into the shoulder – push the shoulder to the gun butt.
Having followed through to the end of the line, dismount the gun and do the same thing, this time from right to left. Doing it at a quarter speed allows you to ensure you get it right. Do six to 10 repetitions, then have a break for a couple of minutes and do it again. It is not about doing as many ‘mounts’ as you can, it is about doing it right and building sound technique. A left-handed shooter would do exactly the same but set their feet up at nine o’clock and 11 o’clock.
Another method, best used in conjunction with the one above rather than on its own, is to stand in front of a mirror, foot position as above with the mirror at 12 o’clock. Start with the gun butt up under the arm again, looking across the muzzle to your eyes. Keep looking at your right eye in the mirror during the mount, push forward with the front hand into the gun, contact the cheek, shoulder forward to meet wood.
Hold the position of the finished mount. If you have done it correctly, your right eye should be sitting nicely on top of the rib looking back at itself in the mirror. If not, something is wrong with your gun mount, your eye dominance or both.
When you can achieve the mount perfectly at a quarter speed, every time, not just now and again, you can increase the speed to half, then eventually nearer to full speed. The focus is on getting it right, not just throwing the gun up, I cannot stress that too much.
If you want to be a better shot, invest time in your shooting. Whether you shoot clays, game or vermin, you will benefit from a better gun mount.
The next two things that can improve your shooting are footwork and turning, as well as how to keep your gun up on the line of a bird and not ‘roll off’ the line. In next month’s issue, we will look at how you can practise this at home, again cost-free, to better your kills to cartridges ratio. Do four 10-minute sessions a week, two on gun mount and two on footwork and turning and I guarantee you will shoot better.
Have a great season!
The completed mount, with my head up, shoulder locked into the butt, and focused on the mark (an exit sign in the middle of the room)
The start position. I am using the line along the top of the windows as the line of my bird
The follow through. Always finish the mount by following through to the end of the wall