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    A Midsummer Night’s Read

    Glen Blackwood
    Glen Blackwood
    Summer is here and opening day is just a few scant weeks away. Your opener might offer doves coursing across a sunflower field, bombastic coveys of prairie birds or a grouse twisting through a stand of cigar-sized aspen. Each quarry is unique, as are the shots they offer. A trip or two to a sporting clays course will provide diversity of target presentations. But will a couple hundred squeezes of the trigger truly provide the consistency needed to succeed when dogs make game this fall? As a former big leaguer taught me, “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice makes permanent. Perfect practice is needed to succeed.”

    Understanding what we need to practice is a key to success. Wing shooting is an acquired skill. Like all sports that involve hand-eye coordination, understanding the fundamentals is paramount to improvement. The book Game Shooting delves into these fundamentals and more.

    Written by Robert Churchill and edited by Macdonald Hastings, Game Shooting was originally published in 1955 by Michael Joseph of London, England. It is the treatise that modern shooting instruction (“The Churchill Method”) is based on. Churchill was the UK’s leading authority on firearms and ballistics as well as the country’s top smoothbore instructor. His knowledge of both internal workings and the practical uses of shotguns is apparent throughout the pages of Game Shooting.

    The author divided his text into four sections: “Drill,” “Field Notes,” “Trap Shooting” and “Gun Know-How.” While all sections are meritorious, this column will focus on the chapters discussed under the “Drill” heading.

    The author divides this section into 10 chapters, of which the first eight hold the most significance to the American wing shooter. It is in these pages he introduces and discusses the fundamentals of his wing shooting method. He breaks down each component into a comprehensive chapter that defines not only the relevance of the topic but also the correct and incorrect manner in which it should be applied. Each chapter addresses a segment of Churchill’s move, mount and shoot ideology. These chapters discuss concepts such as the ready position, gun mount and the importance of feet, hand and head position. Each discussion allows the reader to understand that the sum of the parts do make up the whole in wing shooting. It is in these chapters that one quickly grasps the rights and wrongs that cause a shotgunner to achieve success or frustration.

    While discussing context, Churchill’s text is written in the King’s English. His Edwardian verbiage can be a bit confusing. He uses terms such as “forward allowance” instead of “lead” and “checking your barrels” rather than “stopping your swing.” While these phrases and others may cause the rereading of a passage to follow Churchill’s thoughts (believe me, they did for me), these phrases add to the book’s nostalgic charm.

    Accompanying his words are black and white photographs and line drawings. By modern standards, both are antiquated, but in the context of the date of publication, they are significant additions that competently enhance the author’s text.

    Several editions of Game Shooting have been printed. The first American edition was printed in 1955 by Alfred A. Knopf and titled Churchill’s Shotgun Book. In 1963 Macdonald Hasting revised this title, and his revised edition was released in the United States by Stackpole Press in 1967. Countrysports Press reprinted the book in 1998. This version contains a new foreword written by The Upland Almanac’s “In the Swing” columnist Bryan Bilinski. In all editions, the chapters discussed above contain the original text.

    Churchill’s Game Shooting written in Edwardian English is not what you would call a “light summer read,” but now is the best time to read this historically important yet practical text on wing shooting. Churchill’s insights will help prepare you for the upcoming season. After all, isn’t that what summer is for?


    Wolfe Publishing Group