Sure, clay target practice is good. But the rubber meets the road when you're in the field. That's where you need to put a bird on the ground for your hunting dog … if you want him to keep working hard every time you drop the tailgate.
Once your dog finds a bird, it's time to get your head in the game, literally. But not your hat. Push your cap brim high on your forehead or you'll raise your cheek off the stock to see the bird when you shoot. You will undoubtedly miss as a result.
Reconnoiter the area as you approach your dog and there's a better chance your feet and gun will be pointed in the right direction when your adrenaline flows and wings whir. Flushed, frightened birds often head for a ridge, point, or high spot of some sort, frantically trying to put that topographical barrier between them and the danger you pose. In their absence even ground-dwellers like chukars might bolt for a cover of trees or tall shrubs.
On point, my dogs are totally focused on the bird as if they have blinders on, drilling it with their eyes like laser beams. It's a relentless gaze that says "gotcha." You should develop it, too. Shooting instructor Buzz Fawcett calls it shooting like a predator … a physical and mental single-mindedness that eliminates distractions and puts birds on the ground for the dog. Here's how it works:
Keep your eye on the bird's eye as it flies. Focus completely. It keeps your face on the gunstock, creating an accurate sight picture until the bird tumbles. Once the bird flies, see it, don't just look at it. Ignore your friends, the dog, other birds in a covey, focusing solely on the bird you are going to kill. Once you pull the trigger, watch it fall with your gun still to your shoulder. It will keep your head in the gunstock where it belongs, ensuring good follow through.
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