As hunting season approaches, we are all dreaming about mornings filled with stories in the blinds, wind on wings, decoying ducks, and shotgun blast raining ducks from the sky. These are the thoughts that keep duck hunters going back for more each and every day, week, month and year.
We consider ourselves in a different group – the group of serious, hard-core hunters that strive to get that limit every chance we get (and we take pride in making those chances happen often). Most of us can remember tons of details about these hunts, even down to our very first shotgun. Maybe it was an old hand-me-down single shot like mine, or a new Christmas present that you dreamt about for weeks after seeing the first ducks make it down. Whatever the case, there was a time that you first put a gun in your hand and someone “coached” you up and helped you learn how to use it. My first experience ended up with a bang and I landed on the ground begging to do it again. It was fun and meant that I was officially becoming a man, but I wasn’t born a great shot. I think in my early years they would bring me along because that was another limit that we could fill in the blind. I loved it and desperately wanted to be in the blind every chance I got. This combined with the competitive nature that runs deep in the Robertson family led me to want to be a better shot. I started going to the range to learn more about how to handle a shotgun after college. I hunted a lot up to this point, but was not what I would consider to be a good shot. At the range, a shooting coach that taught me some lessons that I will never forget: a shotgun is a tool and only as good as the guy holding it. Much of the shot can be done before ever picking up the gun – identification of target, anticipation of speed, lead, where you will shoot, etc. We started using these techniques and developing memory for the shooting process – first starting with a mounted gun, then low held, then with the butt on the ground and finally with the gun on the rack – not typical for range shooters, but necessary skills for guys that want to become better shots from a blind. Most of this I still remember today and try to utilize when we go shoot before dove season to get back in the saddle and dust off the old shotguns.
My advice is simple – if you want to be a better shot, do what good shots do – that is, either get a lot of experience hunting or go to the range with someone that is an effective wing shooter and learn from them. Ask them for tips on how to become a better shot then practice these at the range and in the field – this is guaranteed to do a few things – make you more knowledgeable of your gun, makes you safer with your shotgun for you and those around you, and will make you a better shot for the upcoming season.