Lifting the Head off the Stock
Of all the reasons for missing birds, lifting the head off the stock is probably the the most common of all. Remember that a properly fitted shotgun will allow the eyes and the gun to look and shoot to the same spot. That’s the beauty of pointing the gun rather than aiming it. So when you look through the beads on the rib of the gun, it will shoot where the eyes look. Don’t look at the beads. Just be aware of them, much like you are aware of the white lines in the center of the road when driving. You are aware of them, but your focus never goes there.
This holds true time after time, and successful shots are made consistently unless the eye/barrel/bird relationship changes. But when the head is lifted off the stock or the eyes are lifted above the sighting plane of the gun, this constitutes a change in where the eyes and gun look, which will usually constitute a miss.
A fairly common occurrence with clay shooters is not lifting the head, but merely lifting the eyes above the rib to get a better look at the target. This is especially true on targets that are dropping or have a descending line of flight. The results, however, are generally the same, and they aren’t good. Shooters guilty of lifting the eyes should remember to concentrate on their targets through the rib of the gun. Failure to do so will usually cause the gun to stop.
There are a number of reasons for the head to lift as the trigger is being pulled. If the drop on the stock is too low for the shooter, the eyes will be below the receiver and the face will have to be lifted in order to correctly see the bird beyond the muzzle. Proper gun fit, of course, will cure the problem if this is the case.
If the gun is mounted improperly, it will be difficult for the shooter to get his sight picture adjusted in the short time that a shooter generally has to take a shot at a speeding bird. Since the eyes should attempt to follow the bird, they will want to stay focused on it, so they could leave the stock if it isn’t positioned in the cheek and on the shoulder properly. Consistent gun mount practice will add to the timeliness of a proper picture and shot.
The angle of ascent or descent of a bird in flight will also cause the shooter to lift his head off the gun. If a bird flushes and rises quickly, the shooter’s tendency is to first lift the eyes above the gun to find the bird. If the eyes stay up as the bird rises, there’s a good chance that the head will come up as well. If the bird is dropping or landing, if the shooter allows it to come to the gun, chances are he will lift his head in order to keep it in sight just on top of the rib.
It has been established that in shotgun shooting the eyes lead the hands to the target and subsequently to the correct lead picture. And as long as the gun mount is correct, the head can stay down as the muzzle moves along the target line. If the lead picture is right, a successful shot will be the result.
So there you have it, a series of examples of why you miss. By identifying these individual problems and providing a fix for them, there is a good possibility that your skills in the field will improve significantly.
This article is an excerpt from the Gun Digest Book of Shotgunning. Click Here to get your copy
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