Doing Your Homework 101, by Dave McCracken
In the real world few of us get to the range as often as we want, and alas, fewer of us can duck out the back door and touch off a few rounds at barn pigeons, starlings, etc, while supper's cooking.
So, our progress is a bit slower than it could be. But, on the days when we cannot shoot, there's a few things we can do to condition ourselves and help when we do step onto the range or move in past a pointer frozen in position to flush the covey.
First is simple conditioning. Shotgunning is an athletic event requiring some strength and coordination. Even if some top shotgunners look more like Sumo Wrestlers than Marathon winners, there are movements that require effort and precision. These take practice. One can use bar bells, light ones with lots of reps to build tone rather than bulk, but...
A good way to learn handling your shotgun is to handle your shotgun. After ensuring that it is DEFINITELY UNLOADED, practice mounting for 15 minutes a day. Concentrate on placing the stock so it touches your face in the same place every time. Focus on a spot on the wall or ceiling and while focusing, bring the shotgun into position. Do NOT shift your focus to the rib, barrel or bead. Note the position of the shotgun in your peripheral vision and repeat.
As mentioned in the sections on proper mounting techniques and stance, the whole body is involved.
A good ready position for starting the move is with the shotgun more or less level with the muzzle below the target's "line". The butt may have the last inch or so trapped in the armpit so a slight move forward frees it to slide up into position.
Work on smoothness and precision. When you have those, speed will show up uninvited. Think of the moves in Tai Chi. Even Septagenerians can do the moves with amazing speed after repeating them thousands of times slowly.
Shotgunning IS a martial art.
Here's a quote from Gene Hill....."It's not the accumulation of technique that makes a decent field shot-it's the elimination of mistakes".
In Hill's Shotgunner's Notebook where that quote originates, there's a passage where Hill goes to visit a trapshooter, one of the all-time greats. He finds the legend punching a tennis ball hung by a string to work on his eye/hand co- ordination. The legend says it's a regular workout and part of his daily routine.
The legend also has laid out on his garage wall duct tape duplicating the angles of trap shooting, and he spends 30 minutes daily with his shotgun "shooting" all the possible target paths.
If this can help the performance of someone who well knows shooting and runs 100s nearly at will, how much will it help mere mortals such as we?
As we practice the mount, remember that shotgunning is a dynamic act. The target's moving, the shotguns's moving and so are we. So we should practice the swing as we drymount. Trace the lines where ceiling and walls meet for starters, add other angles and keep in touch with your body.
That means feeling the point where we run out of swing, when the barrel moves in an arch rather than a line. We can ID this and reposition as needed. it helps us to know our limits even as we broaden them.
I my opinion, 15 minutes a day spent in drymounts will pay off more than shooting a round of trap or skeet daily. This especially applies to new shooters....
Dave McCracken has been shotgunning longer than many shooters have been alive. He regularly posts on TheHighRoad.org and TheFiringLine.com. This article is reprinted here with his permission; reprinting or redistributing this article without his permission is expressly prohibited.