New Rockford Transcript - Official Newspaper of Eddy County since 1883

Taking the Toughest Shots


October 5, 2020

Simonson Photo

Straight on 'til Morning. A group of pheasants flushes in the morning light, providing a deceptively difficult going-away shot. Check your mount and aim at the space between the tailfeathers and the legs to convert on a straight away rooster this fall.

With waterfowl hunting underway and the challenge of a rising pheasant on the horizon for many, the

field presents a number of challenging shots for hunters, especially those getting back after a long off

season which saw some shooting sports facilities closed due to pandemic restrictions. Whether new to

the field, or just needing some pointers on converting those challenging shots that are sure to come up

this fall, what follows are some tips to bag more birds and make the most of each opportunity.

Straight To It

One of the most frustrating shots, particularly in pheasant hunting, is the going-away bird. When a

rooster rises and takes off low and straight away, hunters have a tendency to rush the shot and shoot

over the bird, turning what looks and feels like a "gimme" into a gone opportunity. The key to

converting this deceptively difficult shot is taking the time to properly mount the gun and pick a

narrower portion of the target to hone in on, according to Mark Sandness, National Sporting Clays

Association Level 3 Instructor and owner of Capital City Sporting Clays in Bismarck, N.D.

"The straight away bird will always seem like it's going straight away in the effect that when you start to

mount the gun, if you're not correctly mounting it you will drive over the top of [the bird]," Sandness

warns, suggesting a deliberate mount and a narrowing of focus on the bird, "just keep your eyes

between the butt and tail to the feet, that will stop the gun from whipping so much," he concludes.

Looking Up

For those blockers who may be capping a stretch of pheasant habitat being walked toward them, and

for those waterfowlers who are pass shooting or have ducks come in high from the 12 o'clock position,

the incoming overhead bird can be a challenging shot due to its height and speed. Especially when stiff

autumn winds are propelling them, the high and fast opportunity can quickly fluster a hunter and the

bird can be lost before the trigger is even pulled.

"If it's coming at them, the biggest issue is they're thinking: 'it's going to get here, it's going to get

closer, I'm going to have an easier shot,' and the next thing you know, it comes whizzing by you,"

Sandness relays of what hunters experience in this common field scenario, "if you have that

presentation where it's coming at you, slide your hand back just slightly so you're about a finger-width

back on your forearm [of the shotgun] so when you mount the gun, the gun's going to mount better in

your shoulder and it's going to shorten the gun up," he continues, suggesting a shortened length helps

control that fast, overhead swing to catch the bird.

A Second Chance

Aside from a close flush, the second most surprising occurrence in the field is when a first shot which

seemed to be dead on does not bring down a bird. The bewilderment sometimes makes a second shot

just as ineffective, but the confounding nature leading into the second shot (and possibly a second and

even more frustrating miss) has less to do with emotion or adrenaline, and more to do with where a

shooter's eyes are after the first salvo goes wide of the target. Refocusing on the target is key in setting

up a more effective follow-up.

"To overcome that first miss, try to pull your eyes back away from that gun and get back onto the bird,"

Sandness instructs, as many hunters are surprised by missing on the first shot, and are so thrown off,

they don't reset their field of vision properly, looking more toward the end of the barrel as the pheasant

or duck zooms off, "you don't have to dismount, just bring the gun out of view and get back on the

bird," he adds, noting that modern shells are plenty fast and powerful to catch up with a bird even at a

distance following the first shot.

Familiarity with simple shots – easy crossers and slow-rising angled targets – helps build confidence for

the field. Sandness suggests working on those easier angled and slow-moving targets at a trap or

sporting clays facility helps get hunters prepared for the less predictable and more challenging shots

that can occur. The transition of how a gun mounts in a controlled environment helps sportsmen know

what to feel for when a bird comes into range for a shot on the wing, and the familiarity of that spot

between chest and shoulder is easily detected before pulling the trigger. Once the basics are mastered,

there are a number of ways to practice faster, harder, or less frequently occurring shots to help hunters

be ready for anything this fall and in seasons to come.


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