column By: Bryan E. Bilinski | June, 17
Reason # 4: Chokes too tight or with too much constriction for the distances we are shooting.
According to Al Stewart, Upland Game Bird Specialist for the Michigan DNR, the reputed average distance a ruffed grouse is shot is 18 yards. My guess is an average shot at a woodcock might even be a little closer. A cylinder or skeet choke is a forgiving friend at distances from 15 to 25 yards. My best advice is to check your chokes at the distances you guesstimate you shoot in the field or in your upland coverts next season. Shooting your chosen bird loads at well measured distances at some sort of plastic or paper patterning sheet can be a one-dimensional, eye-opening experience. Ignorance is not bliss when it boils down to the knowledge you have about your shotgun’s chokes and loads. Knowing how the chokes of your gun pattern at a given distance in overall circumference and pellet density is a priceless piece of data to stick away into your “confidence folder.” Confident wing shooters shoot much better and miss way less.
Reason # 5: Being unaware of poor or bad barrel regulation.
Again, no good excuse for this one. If the barrel or barrels of your not-so-favorite bird gun shoot three inches low and four inches right of center density at 20 yards because of poor barrel regulation, then you are always shooting low and to the right of everything, no matter how well the gun fits.
Testing the barrel regulation of your shotgun is also another factor that must be added to your confidence folder. When the barrel regulation is very good or near perfect, then the benefits of proper gun fit follow suit.
Reason # 6: Shooting a poorly fitted shotgun.
I know, I know. Volumes have been written about how important a well-fitted shotgun stock is to a wing shooter’s success and his or her consistency in taking birds in flight, on the wing. However, if the stock of your favorite bird gun is too long or too short, too low or too high or has too much or not enough cast for you, then you will have difficulty shooting where you are looking. When you are trying to intercept a rapidly departing ruffed grouse or late season rooster with a swarm of shot, then shooting exactly where you are looking can make the difference between a bird in the bag or the renowned two-barrel salute. A well-fitted gun is also easier and more efficient to move and mount firmly to your cheekbone ledge, a key factor in shooting where you are looking.
Reason # 7: Bird hunting in a poorly fitted upland shooting jacket or vest.
Just because some outdoor clothing designer in New York or China labeled your outerwear an “Upland Shooting Jacket,” unless you try it on with gun in hand there is absolutely no guarantee that the apparel you bought online will fit you properly and well. There is nothing worse than trying to mount a shotgun efficiently while wearing a blousy or baggy upland hunting garment.
I personally like a snug fitting vest that allows my arms to still move freely and elevate, while being rather formfitting around the shoulder joint and under the armpit. It is critical you try on the upland vest or jacket while wearing the shirt or layered items you will wear, both in normal temps and when the upland hunting conditions take a turn for the worse, two conditions that must be seriously considered. I also like to shoot in a vest or jacket that has either a suede out or a leather shoulder patch. Both of these materials allow a firmer contact anchor point for the buttstock after the gun mount is completed. The buttstock’s sliding from the shoulder pocket after the first shot is another reason you often miss with the second barrel, too.
There you have it – more food for thought in your journey to becoming the best wing shot possible. No easy task and no excuses are acceptable if you implement a game plan that will help you eliminate some of the key factors you have control over. More reasons are coming in Part III.