column By: Bryan E. Bilinski | August, 17
(Note: This series of columns began in the Spring 2017 issue of The Upland Almanac. In this issue, we pick up where we left off.)
Here we look at more of the reasons we somewhat imperfect human beings all miss with our beloved shotguns. The sad truth of the matter is we wouldn’t need this third installment except for the fact that … the reasons we miss increase.
Reason #8: Assuming or implementing a poor stance and incorrect posture
We should have no reason to assume the incorrect, target-facing foot position and forward posture when shooting predetermined and called-for clay targets. However, with unpredictable game birds, all bets are off. It is way too easy to either get excited or startled when a bird flushes and overstep in too wide a stance or in the wrong direction. Another common problem is not moving your lead foot in the direction or line the bird is flying in. Just as debilitating are those times we recoil from or being startled by the sound of wing beats and transition our weight to our heels instead of correctly to the ball of the lead foot, where most of our weight belongs. Assuming the wrong stance or too upright a posture when a bird flushed is the key reason for a lot of unexplained misses in the field.
Reason #9: Shooting with an excessively heavy or creepy trigger pull
Let’s be honest. Do you even know the trigger pull of your favorite bird gun? Do you also know if the trigger creeps along or travels for some obvious distance before releasing? Crisp triggers with sweet and proportionate pulls for the gun weight and little to no creep are efficient and a joy to shoot.
One of the best ways to describe a well-adjusted trigger is that it “breaks like glass.” Today, trigger pulls on most production-line bird guns are set and figuratively adjusted by the gunmaker’s attorneys. Trigger pulls are often set to break on the heavy side with a lot of deliberate creep, so no one could ever accuse the gun company of selling a shotgun that “fired prematurely or went off without intent” and to avoid dire consequences to the bird hunter who didn’t intend to shoot. You personally must make the decision when it comes to lightening and improving the trigger pulls of your bird gun. To make a safe change to the pulls, you must seek out a competent gunsmith to adjust the sears and travel on your trigger. Unfortunately, many gunsmiths today simply pass when it comes to working on triggers and action sears because of the liability that comes with changing the factory trigger pulls. Regardless, good, crisp trigger pulls make a difference in how well you shoot.
Reason #10: Changes in your eye dominance
Before I begin any gun-fitting or wing shooting lesson, I ask my clients if they know which eye is their dominant eye. Most the time the answer is, “Yes, I know I am right (or left) eye dominant!”
OK, maybe you are, but let’s check just to be sure.
Now comes the moment of truth. You would be amazed to see what I see. A very, very high percentage of my clients do not have the dominant eye they thought they had. They may have been a true right or left eye dominant back when they were a youthful 25- or 30-year-old wing shooter but not anymore. Aging and life issues have gotten in the way, and eye dominance might have changed. I have seen so many changes to wing shooters’ eyes from a true right or left eye dominant to either “right central,” “left central” or neutrally eye dominant that the percentage is downright scary. Besides the good ol’ aging process, the only other reason I can surmise that this problem is so prevalent in the wing shooting community today is because of the wide-ranging use of handheld close range-viewed computers and smart phones. When we focus at a close-up object like a cell phone or computer screen day after day and year after year, eventually our eyes and muscles that control our eyes transition to equal dominance or central vision. When that happens to Mr. or Mrs. Wingshot, you no longer shoot exactly where you think you are looking and shooting.
If you are having shooting problems that are new issues for you, have your eye dominance checked by a professional who really knows what they are doing. You might uncover a key reason your shooting skill appears to have disappeared into the distant past. You “win this game with your eyes.” Eye dominance changes are nothing to be taken lightly.