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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Shotgun success takes practice and skill

If you watched the Olympics this summer you should have noticed that an American woman, Kim Rhodes, won a gold medal in skeet by shooting an amazing 99 out of 100. Incidentally Kim has been sponsored in her Olympic training by Otis Technology, a company based in upstate New York that manufactures high quality gun cleaning products.

OK, admit it. You had intended to stock up on clay pigeons, trap loads for your shotgun and practice a lot this summer and early fall to be ready for hunting season. But we know what infamous road is paved with good intentions. You kept putting it off and now the only way you can break 80 out of 100 clay pigeons is to jump up and down on the box!

Fortunately there is still time to improve, even by practicing at home in the evening. A lot of shooting skill comes from mounting the gun properly and consistently. Make sure the gun is unloaded and assume the ready position with your feet almost shoulder-length apart and the gun butt tucked lightly under your arm.

Keep your head still and focus on a point on the wall. Push the muzzle towards it while raising the gun to your face. Learn to bring the gun to the place on your cheek that leaves you looking right down the rib or barrel at the target. If you are not, you will be shooting high over your target. Do 50 mounts a night.

Proper shooting form is a key to accuracy. Keep both eyes open with feet in a slightly open stance and about 60% of your weight on the front foot. Your head and neck should be comfortably erect as you bring the gun up smoothly to the cheek and align the master eye.

Your support hand should be forward near the front of the stock. Your index finger should be pointed towards the target and two-thirds of the weight of the gun supported by your front hand.

Of course you also need to practice shooting to get your motion and timing down. Just because a shotgun delivers a lot of pellets, hitting anything, especially a moving target is far from a sure thing. The brain has to record the speed, distance and angle of a flying target and instantaneously deliver a command that enables our body and gun to send a swarm of pellets to some point out there in space where they intercept the target.

A common denominator in all of these methods is the need to practice. Shooting trap is a good way to get the reflexes and the brain working on the mechanics and the leads. Skeet shooting is another variation where the clay pigeons tend to come from overhead. And of course sporting clays are used to simulate the different conditions and species such as pheasant, grouse, ducks or rabbits.

Once you have gotten the mechanics down and practiced enough to sharpen your reflexes, the best thing is actual conditions. For example duck hunters know that because of speed and angle, the amount of lead necessary to hit an incoming or crossing duck increases as it comes in closer. It becomes greatest when the duck is overhead or crosses at a right angle.

Patterning a shotgun is not really fun, but then again, neither is missing. Staple a 40 inch square of paper to a backstop and shoot from a solid rest. Label your target with gun, choke, load and distance information. Shoot plenty of times since you can’t evaluate loads or your aim on only a couple of shots,
You should also determine if your gun actually shoots straight by aiming at spot on paper at 20 yards away from a solid rest. Some chokes might shoot high, to the right, etc. Repeat the test with a different choke.

Shotgun shooting is an art. It starts with gun that fits properly, and using the proper technique consistently. The most common mistakes are stopping your swing and lifting your head to double check your lead or see if you hit your target. This causes the gun to stop and you shoot behind your target. By practicing your swing and maintaining lead you can improve your success this fall.

Short Casts

Columbus Day Weekend Youth Deer Hunt: The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has confirmed that junior hunters ages 14-15 will be able to hunt deer during a special youth firearms deer season over Columbus Day Weekend this year, October 6 through October 8, 2012.

The youth deer hunt will take place Columbus Day weekend in both the Northern Zone and Southern Zone. Junior hunters with a big game hunting license will be eligible to take one deer of either sex with a firearm when properly accompanied by a licensed and experienced adult. Junior hunters may use a Deer Management Permit or Deer Management Assistance Program tag for an antlerless deer or, during the youth firearms season only, they may use their regular season tag to take a deer of either sex.

“Bowhunting seasons remain open during the youth hunt, but I encourage bowhunters to set your bow aside for the weekend and be a mentor for a youth’s first firearms deer hunt,” Commissioner Joseph Martens stated.

While there is pending legislation that may impact future youth hunts, until it has been acted on, DEC’s regulations remain in effect. More details of the Youth Firearms Deer Hunt and rules for junior hunters and their mentors are available at:


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