The Art of Missing

February 13, 2009 by  

By PJ Maguire


PJ has logged a long career of memorable misses

PJ has logged a long career of memorable misses

There has been a lot written about shooting shotguns and the different roles of shot size, chokes, etc. It seems to me that every article I have read about shooting agrees on one thing; you can have the right choke with the right load, but if you cannot shoot, it won’t matter. In my opinion, when it comes to shooting, practice makes perfect.

Still one can practice their shotgun shooting through the summer, and feel they are equipped with adequate loads and choke and blank on a committed flock of mallards come fall. You may ask yourself, how does this happen? I know I do. At the end of the season I can always think of countless times when I should have added birds to the bag, yet I cleanly missed. It’s funny how one remembers the misses more clearly than the hits.

There are two things I typically do when shooting at birds that I blame my misses on. The first, which I feel is common for most hunters, is not getting my head down on the barrel. When my cheekbone is not snug to the stock, my gun is not properly aligned and I miss. This phenomenon typically occurs when I am in awe of my surroundings, like when a big flock of geese comes right into the decoys.

PJ has logged a long career of memorable misses

PJ has logged a long career of memorable misses

The second thing that I feel that I do when I miss is leading the bird too far. I know this sounds crazy because most shooters will tell you that one typically does not lead birds enough. I try to concentrate on my lead quite often when I am shooting. Because I concentrate on it, probably too much, often I feel that I shoot too far ahead of my target.

One thing most shotgun shooters should do to improve their shooting is figure out what kind of shooter you are so you can work on weaknesses and play the strengths. I am not going to try to explain the many different types of shooters in this article; one must do that research for yourself. Think of it as homework.

My shooting coach/league partner, Fred Klein, has told me that I am a spot-shooter. Basically that means that I shoot at a spot were I feel that my target is heading. Spot shooting is one of the hardest ways for shooters to learn to shoot, but once it is learned it can be very efficient. I can honestly say I was born a spot shooter, it was not learned. However, through shooting in a weekly league at Metro Gun club with Fred and company, I have learned a lot.

I  believe that the easiest way for shotgun hunters to improve their shooting is through visualization. Many psychological studies have proven that many things in life can be improved through the visualization process. Studies have shown that basketball players, for example, have improved their free throw shooting through visualization, almost as much as through practice. Picture yourself hitting more birds, and I believe that you will.

When hunting live birds anything can happen. The wind, the sun, and many other factors can affect one’s pattern of shotgun pellets. It is important to keep shooting and not get too down on yourself. I know as well as anyone that in order to have good days bird hunting you have to capitalize on every opportunity you get. You cannot hit what you don’t shoot at and if you keep pulling the trigger I believe that good things will happen.


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