Become a Better Wing Shot Through Form and Experience

 In Education

by Ed H Edwards, Lansing Chapter Member, avid hunter, and fisherman

Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over expecting different results!

 -Albert Einstein


A true double on spooked wood ducks requires pulling the trigger with a fraction of a second between shots. Woodies are fast and capable of changing direction on a dime often humbling the shooter like no other duck can. Want to increase your percentage of ducks per shot taken? Easy, do not shoot at wood ducks! 

That second one really had his afterburners on, how did you manage to connect? My hunting partner asked. Good question I had no answer other than the barrel was no doubt moving faster than the duck was flying and kept moving after the shot left the barrel! 

Shotgun shooting technique has been a topic for magazine articles for decades and the basic instructions are:

Mount the shotgun with the stock tight to your cheek and keep it there during the shot.

Lead a moving target by one of these methods and keep swinging after pulling the trigger.

  • A “sustained lead” is where you get what you perceive to be the correct lead ahead of the target and maintain that lead when pulling the trigger and not stopping the follow-through.
  • A “swing through lead” swinging from behind the target and accelerating the swing through it, firing just as the muzzle passes the bird.


It is doubtful a hunter knows beyond a shadow of all doubt how he hit a bird each time he drops one. I am certain I do not. There are times I use a sustained lead and the bird drops. There are times I swing through and the bird drops. There are times I have no idea what I did and the bird drops. Sometimes I swear the shot was perfect and the bird does not even flair. 

 I do know beyond a shadow of all doubt a shotgun shooter needs to practice and hunt enough to learn the art of mounting, pointing, and swinging until the motion becomes fixed in his mind. Shooting without proper form will become a frustrating effort and only benefit shotshell manufacturers and educate the intended prey!

Shooting Form Principles, Physics, and Suggestions

Someone once said “To hit is history, to miss is a mystery. “  

The general agreed upon the reason most missed shots are due to shooting behind the target. The greater the angle and speed of the target the more likely a miss will occur. We all miss some shots due to sloppy gun mounting, putting the shot charge over, under, or whatever but most shots are missed by shooting behind the bird’s flight than any other cause. The common and all-important element in the two lead methods is follow through of the swing. If the swing is stopped the bird will be missed. If then, the reason we tend to shoot behind birds is due to inadequate follow through how can this be corrected? Any article on shotgun shooting advises to swing with the body via our hips and not with the shoulders and arms. The overlooked problem is the left arm (assuming the shooter is right-handed) is normally close to the body and most of the gun’s weight is controlled by that arm. Again, we are instructed to swing with the body but the position of the left arm makes it tempting to let it do most of the work. Swinging with the arm and shoulder is not as smooth and controlled compared to using the hips and slowing and or stopping the swing results.

 When I started hunting waterfowl my hunting partner used a pump shotgun as did my son when he became of age. Both are darn good shots and especially if a second shot is needed the duck has a very slim chance of making it to the next cornfield. A seasoned pump gun shooter grips the slide towards the far end to avoid short-stroking the spent shell and in doing so his left arm is straight and fully extended when taking a shot. I have noticed this is especially true when taking second and third shots.

A straight left arm provides several benefits in improving shooting form and more birds in the freezer.

  • Your cheek is forced down on the stock where it is supposed to be.
  • Keeping the left arm extended you cannot help but swing with your hips and keep the swing going after pulling the trigger.
  • Shotgun shooting is first and forever a pointing and not an aiming task, the straight left arm method allows you to point with your whole arm, with the body following. Compared to a bent arm this tends to put you on target a bit faster.

Humor me. Get out your favorite duck gun regardless of action and mount and swing with a bent left arm. Okay now mount and swing with the left arm straight. Notice how the above three points come naturally! Try leading with your left arm straight the next time you shoot clays or go hunting and see if it improves your hits. I suspect it will.

Gain Wing shooting Experience

Shotgun target shooting be it trap, skeet, or sporting clays are great for learning and practicing shooting form however, none equals experience in the field.

Nowadays opportunities to experience hunts that provide enough shooting opportunities to measure improvement are hard to come by. Suggested hunts offered by several of our fundraiser donors:

  • Pheasant tower shoots followed by walk-up hunting with dogs offered by Crooked Foot are a lot of fun with a variety of different shot opportunities.
  • Waterfowl hunts by Robert Stanley on the Ontario side of Lake St. Clare can provide more shooting opportunities in two days than often a season of do-it-yourself hunts.
  • High-volume dove hunt in Argentina by HP Wing Shooting Adventures for the ultimate experience.

I had a great big game hunt in Argentina several years ago and have a dove hunt on my bucket list. Several friends have experienced it with amazing shooting opportunities. How good? One guy had a goal of shooting two thousand doves on a four-day hunt. He stopped shooting after the morning shoot on the fourth day after bagging over 1700 doves and could no longer lift his arms. He walked around the rest of the day like an Irish River Dancer!

I would probably self-limit my ammo to 500 rounds as I used to do in Sonora Mexico. For most of the 1990s, I hosted a yearly incentive trip for our top sales representatives every January. This was always a great winter getaway with an awesome wing-shooting experience. I remember one morning the sun broke like a giant orange over a distant mountain range making the brush in the fence row we set up shine like polished silver. Dropping a pair of shells in the SKB the bird boy assigned my post hissed la Paloma as the first flock buzzed into range. My intended bird folded getting the day off to a good start. Throughout the morning there was virtually a waiting line for air space over our position. Like mosquitos swarming a nudist camp doves came in singles, doubles, and flocks of all sizes. There were so many I decided to only take overhead shots and only shoot once per bird. If I missed, I would swing at the next opportunity but not shot at it. I managed a couple of doubles and shot 17 straight before missing, what a morning!

If you want to get a lifetime of bird shooting experience in a few days go on a good dove hunt. You will become a better shot!

If you go on a hunt south of the border do not be a gringo. Be patient and accept a manana schedule. Learn a few key Spanish words and be extra polite. Latinos are zealously cordial in their lifestyle. Use the words gracious (thanks) and por favor (please) as often as you can.


Safari Club International is the leading voice in the fight to protect the freedom to hunt, both in the United States and internationally. The SCI Departments of Legal Advocacy Resources and International Affairs and Government Relations are headquartered in Washington, D.C., advocating on behalf of SCI members and non-members alike. From staff dedicated to legislation and policy to a team of litigators, SCI hunter advocacy is at the forefront of protecting the hunting heritage. SCI and the SCI Foundation provide the voice of the hunter in treaties that affect hunting and wildlife conservation worldwide. This is where SCI and SCI Foundation go beyond what other hunter organizations do and why their work in this arena is critical to preserving the right to hunt.  Plus, we have lots of fun and events like this one!

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