When your dog has done his part to find the birds for you, now its is up to you. Here are three ideas to help you improve your shooting success this season. First, always carry your gun at the ready. I have learned this from personal experience and from watching some exceptional upland gunners.
Have the gun at the ready, slanted across the front of your body about waist level. This is the beginning of smooth mount, one which brings your cheek to the stock and the barrel in line with your eye. Your eye is tracking the bird followed byÂ a crisp trigger pull and continuing the follow through; all which culminates in a successful shot.
Now, I understand that you can’t walk all day long in this position, but when you are in good bird habitat, try to spend more of your time in this ready position than not. I was amazed when I actually watched a good friend of mine, and very successful bird hunter, spend most of his time with his gun in front of him at the ready. When he mounts it seems slow and deliberate, yet in reality, it is fast and accurate. “Slow is steady, and steady is fast (and accurate).”
Second, as the bird flushes, take the extra fraction of a second to ensure your footing so that you have a stable shooting base. If you don’t have a stable, balanced shooting base, nothing else matters. I think this is one of the main reasons chukars are so hard to hit; you are always on steep rocky slopes with difficult footing, where it’s tough to quickly get a stable shooting base. A sound base allows you to smoothly swing through a flying bird, which is critical to connecting.
Third, as the bird flushes, look for its eye. Narrowing your focus down to the birds eye ensures that you are tracking the bird (aim small, miss small), and it helps you hit the bird in the killing zone (head and neck). When I can tell the gender of a flushing quail I am confident that the bird is going to fall. This doesn’t happen very often with these feathery buzz-balls, but when my focus is so narrow that I can see that much detail, the bird crumples every time.
By having your gun at the ready, and taking the extra fractions of a second to ensure a stable shooting base and narrowing your focus to the eye of the bird, you will find that you connect more often and improve your success on birds this season. After all, you owe it to your dog.