Spontaneity Plus

Incomers from a high tower often dazzle shooters. One way to deal with them is to deliberately not look until the last second, then shoot completely by reflex. In this photo, each shooter used the second barrel to take a flying shard.

But consider this:  Very likely, the best shots you know are probably also the fastest—guys (and women) who get on a bird and break it so quickly you wonder how they’ve even seen the damned thing, much less got off a shot.  This, of course, is pure instinctive shooting combined with eyesight and reflexes that are out of the ordinary.  If you’ve got it, you’ve got it, and if you haven’t—and I haven’t—no amount of practice will replace it.  The practice will help, though, and trying to pick up the bird more quickly and pull the trigger as soon as you have the target in clear view, will certainly pay dividends.

There are ways to practice this, even within the confines of a Skeet field.  Ask the puller to surprise you, or delay pushing the button, or deliberately give you the wrong bird, or a double.  And shoot gun down, safety on, just as you would in the field, walking up on a point.

Anyone who has done much field shooting has at least one memory of a bird, approaching from afar, that was a clean miss with both barrels.   Not surprisingly, it’s a memory that never leaves you.  I recall one sharp-tailed grouse in Montana, in 1994, that rose from under a tree a hundred yards away, and flew straight towards me and over my head.  It didn’t bat an eye at my two shots, and flew on out of sight.

Doves persistently present such incoming shots, and I suspect that’s one reason so many people find doves difficult and record such lamentable bird-to-cartridge ratios.

Fully recognizing my own problems with such birds—and undoubtedly thinking about it too much—I’ve found that deliberately looking away from the bird for a second or two, then glancing back, picking it up, and shooting, sometimes works.  You turn a sustained, deliberate shot into a spontaneous one.  This also works with the long incomers you often see on sporting clays ranges.

The English shooting style, which stresses mounting the gun as your lead hand follows the bird, and pressing the trigger the instant the butt touches your shoulder, is the proper physical reaction to a spontaneous recognition of a target.

Gray’s shooting editor, Terry Wieland, is carrying on Gough Thomas’s work of exploring every possible way to miss a bird in the air.  It seems the methods are endless.