Thanks, Coach! The Real Secret to Better Shotgunningby Mark Roberts
The point was perfect. Hard and frozen like a rock, my young Brittany had investigated a small clump of brush in the middle of a plowed field and now had been seriously rewarded. I stepped in for the flush and saw a gargantuan pheasant blow out from under my feet. As he turned for the wind, my shotgun found my shoulder and rapidly fired. The pheasant flew, unhindered, to the next county. I can still see him jetting away while Ranger looked at me with an expression best translated as, “Doh! Why am I hunting with a guy who can’t hit anything?”
Most wingshooters can tell that same story. Such sorry episodes make us ask, “What am I doing so that never happens again?” Misses cause blame to be placed on everything from chokes to shells to the wind, but in our hearts we know we failed, we did not make the shot. Unfortunately, even having admitted that, I still did not know what I had done wrong. Thus, I continued being a miserably inconsistent shotgunner. All the quick fix articles promising “Three Ways to Be a Better Wingshot” were not changing that, and the advice of my hunting buddies (who also missed regularly) wasn’t any real help either. It was time to swallow my pride and admit I didn’t shoot like I wanted to. I needed a shotgun coach.
Pete Blakely says I am not alone. Pete is the club professional at the Dallas Gun Club. He sees hundreds of shooters every week at one of the busiest clubs in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. “Shooting isn’t magic and it isn’t a gimmick or trick. It is simple math and physics but most guys don’t take the time to ever learn that.” Does that sound like anybody you know? Of course, immediately we think of objections to being coached. “Sure — that might be great, but who has the time and money for shotgun lessons?” Let me explain why you can’t afford not to find yourself a top flight shotgun coach before the next season starts, and how to find the coach that will make a difference in your wingshooting.
Why You Need a Coach
Anyone who is not a consistent quality shot with a shotgun needs a coach. Why? Because you are spending hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on guns, shells, dogs, vet bills, special trips to far away places to hunt and much more. All of that is done quite willingly because we want to get birds. That is what hunting is about: the prey. It may not all be about bagging birds, but when we get done with all our talk about just working the dogs and how great it is to be outdoors and all that other blather, we want birds. We are hunting and that means we want to see targets and we want to hit targets. Therefore, everything turns on your shooting. The ducks come in, the pheasant piles out, the covey rises and now the success or failure of the hunt rides on you and your shooting skills. If you cannot execute at that critical moment, then writing the day down as a great hunting day will be very difficult. Further, it is one thing not to see anything at all (then we talk up the great outdoors and how the dogs worked). It is an entirely different circumstance to see birds and miss many of them, or worse, to have only one or two shots all day and miss that one shot that would have made the day a success.
What am I asking is, “Why do we spend all this money, travel so far, and train our dogs so diligently, if the one key factor in the hunt is going to go neglected and send us home unhappy?” Tell the truth: we live with those missed birds. They never go away. An all day walk to find one covey can be a great day if you double, but if you miss a make-able shot it is just misery, isn’t it? That doesn’t even take into account the ribbing you get from your buddies when you flail, or that pained expression on your dog’s face when you miss. Don’t tell the wife, but hunting is very expensive. To get the payoff you want from those massive expenses you must shoot well. If you can’t do that you are wasting your time and your money and inviting the dark cloud of depression to live permanently on your shoulder.
Think of shotgun coaching as a lifetime investment. If you come to understand the how and why of shooting you may get rusty again but you can head back to the range and get polished up. You will know what to do and how to do it. What you learn from a good coach will never leave you and will help you from then on. How many shells will it save you? How many more birds will you take? How much more respect from your peers will you gain? Won’t it feel good when your dog stays with you instead of running off to hunt with someone who can drop birds? Shooting lessons make the difference - a difference that keeps on paying and profiting you. When you think about it, you can’t afford not to get good at this. You are planning to do it for the rest of your life, right? Why not learn to do it well?
Shooting lessons can make the difference between a beautiful point with game in the bag and a beautiful point without.
Photo by: R. Michael DiLullo