A shotgun is a different animal all together. Since there is no rear sight on the models used for shooting flying objects like gamebirds and clay targets, the gun is pointed and not aimed.
When you consider the absence of a rear sight, you’ll find that the shooter’s eye on the side of the shooting shoulder takes its place.
Assuming the gun fits the shooter properly and is mounted to the face and placed in the shoulder correctly, the gun should shoot exactly where the shooter is looking.
Since the gun will shoot to the point of the shooter’s focus when properly fitted and mounted, he should always look down the rib or through the beads of the gun and directly on the target itself or to a point ahead of the target depending on his shooting style.
If at any time the eyes leave that focal point relative to the target and are directed back to the barrel for shooter alignment, or they look at some object other than the intended target, the result will almost always be a miss.
The shooter’s ability to use his eyes to acquire a lead picture is not the only ingredient needed for a successful shot. Things like proper foot and body position and a well executed gun mount are also required if a shot is to be successful. These important elements of successful shooting require physical motion and can be learned and applied with proper practice.
At first, mastering the basics of wingshooting might appear to be difficult for some new shooters, as the thought of having to determine just what sight picture is needed to hit a constantly moving and changing flying target can be confusing.
Even though humans are not blessed with the best vision in nature, they do have a mental capacity that is superior to all creatures. As a result, we can see and feel lead pictures that can in fact be learned and stored mentally for future use. You will find that shotgun leads are not measured. On shots taken in the field, there simply isn’t time.
Professional instructors often tell their students to feel the lead, not measure it. The eyes will tell the shooter when the picture is right. Without question, the more information that is stored for immediate recall when a bird is flushed or passes overhead, the more instinctively the shooter will respond. As this skill is further developed, the shooter’s ability to feel the lead will become more natural.
A good understanding of how the eyes and brain work together to direct the hands can give a shooter a leg up when it comes to his shooting skills. These skills can only be developed with proper practice.
Like other physical skills that require precise use of the motor movement senses, the proper and controlled mechanics for handling a shotgun have to be learned and developed to the point that they become habitual or as some might say, instinctive.
Being an accomplished shot with a shotgun doesn’t bear any resemblance to passing a college course in rocket science, but many shooters seem to take it to that level.
Once the basic motor skills of mounting and swinging a shotgun are mastered, and a series of mental images of lead pictures for certain shots are filed away in the brain, lead picture identification becomes more natural. And when all of the elements needed for a successful shot are in place, the shooter will be amazed at how natural it feels when a target such as a pheasant or duck presents itself in front of the gun.
The eyes will lock on the target and the hands will masterfully push the gun towards the bird. As this sequence of events unfolds, everything to the shooter seems to be in slow motion.
Remarkably the eyes and brain instinctively know when the proper sight picture is acquired and, as the shot sequence continues, the shooter will see the bird fall while focusing on it through the beads on the gun.
Did the shooter have the time to decipher all of the aspects of the shot in the few seconds it took for this scene to play out? If he was successful, chances are he would say that the gun just went to the right spot and the trigger was pulled when the muzzle got to the target and the picture felt right.
Many would define this action as instinctive, but once we analyze how the sequence of events unfolded, instinct might be only a small part of what actually happened. It might be better to say that the satisfying result of such a shot sequence was a combination of the eyes, hands and brain working as a team.
You will find that as you become more comfortable with your wingshooting it is this teamwork of senses and our remarkable mind that ultimately define the basics of wingshooting.
Since there is much more to the above scenario than just pointing the gun until it feels good, let’s take a look at the myriad of variables that allow such a shot to take place.
This article is an excerpt from the Gun Digest Book of Shotgunning.