I spent many years shooting competitive Sporting Clays and also as a National Sporting Clays Association Level II gunning instructor. I have seen the best and worst shooters in the country. In this article I want to give you some tips you can use to be a better more effective dove hunter.
1. Practice: Do not just go out and blast away, have someone that is a better shooter than you watch your style and help you along. A professional lesson or two are well worth the investment. If you have no one to help you get a good video or book to help you along. Practice your mount in front of a mirror until you become smooth and fluid. Always remember speed is not fast, smooth is fast.
2. Focus: Learn to focus on the eye of the bird or front of the target. Too many people focus on the whole target or on bird’s tails as they are easily seen. Have you ever shot at a bird and it leaves a trail of floating tail feathers. I wonder why? Focus on the head or eye of the bird, I have had people call me when they see a dove blink for the first time. It will happen if you focus on the eyes and you will be amazed as your bird count goes up.
3. Mount on the target or just in front: Many people practice the old style of pass through shooting where they come from behind the target and try to brush it out of the sky. No one with this method wins major competitions anymore. Your shot string is approximately six foot long, if the first pellet in the string goes behind the target guess where the rest of them go? If half of the shot string goes in front of the target you still get a kill. What does all this mean? It means you should always mount in front of the target and never get behind it in your swing and follow through.
4. Move, Mount, Shoot: This phrase should be engraved in your mind. Move with the flight of the bird. This means move the gun with the flight of the bird in the ready to mount position (NOT MOUNTED) when the bird reaches the area where you wish to shoot simply mount the gun on the front of the target pull out in front of the target and pull the trigger. I see hunters every year that spot a dove coming in from a long way off and mount the gun and track the bird, shoot and miss. Yet when someone yells bird and they look up, see the bird and shoot, then crush it. If you track the bird you will almost always try to aim and miss the bird.
5. Do Not Aim: The bead on a shotgun is not to aim with unless you hunt turkeys or shoot slugs. Compare it to the hood ornament on a car; it is simply there for your subconscious to know you are on target. Focus only on the target so you can swing smoothly and stay in front of the target. If you feel like your swing is jerky in movement it means you are changing focus from the target to the front bead and back to the target. A shotgun swing is not jerky only your focus back and forth. This is one of the most important tips I can give you. Consider the shotgun bead the miss me bead and stay focused on the bird.
Remember above all to stay safe, be sure of your target and have fun. The September heat can be brutal on dove hunters so be sure and consume water and or sports drinks during the day. Don’t forget to provide liquid refreshment for your canine friends as well. Good hunting, Wild Ed