Shoot the Shot

Become a better wingshooter—right now—with hard truth from the videocam.

Become a better wingshooter—right now—with hard truth from the videocam.
Become a better wingshooter—right now—with hard truth from the videocam.file photo

The first time I saw myself on TV, I learned that the camera doesn’t add 10 pounds to everyone. It just reveals the extra 10 pounds you wouldn’t admit to yourself you were carrying. Video shows you as you are, not as you think you are.

That's why video can provide valuable information for shotgunners. I appeared in various wingshooting videos for Range 365, and so I've have the dubious pleasure of seeing the good, the bad, and the ugly of my shooting. It made me aware of errors I never knew I was making. For instance, I saw myself consistently pull the gun off my face on crossing targets. I have no idea how long I had been doing that, but I rectified it immediately.

Get Ready for Your Closeup

Golfers love video analysis, but the technique hasn't fully caught on with average shooters yet. Orvis wingshooting instructor James Ross says video is a powerful teacher, and a short clip often persuades where words fail. "I kept trying to talk one of my regular students into shooting lighter loads," he says. "Finally I showed him a slow-motion video of himself shooting so he could see how recoil punished his body.

“My student said, ‘That’s awful. I had no idea.’ I said, ‘That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you for the past three years.’”

If you want video to help you see the painful truth about your shooting, you’ll need a video camera or a smartphone and either a friend or a tripod. “Don’t worry about trying to film the target,” advises Ross. “It will be too small and difficult to see. The shooter and the gun is where the action is.”

Camera Angles

To analyze foot position and weight distribution, put the camera to the right of a right- handed shooter and far enough away so the shooter’s whole body, from head to toe, is in the frame.

To study gun mount, head movement, and follow-through, put the camera one step behind and one step to the right of the right-handed shooter.

Start with an unmounted gun and shoot a variety of crossing and outgoing targets with the camera at both locations. Here are some points of form that are easy to spot on the replay:

Head-to-Toe View

• Stance: Your feet should be shoulder-width apart, and your knees neither stiff nor bent, just relaxed.

• Weight: You should be leaning forward slightly, just enough to put your nose over the toes of your left foot. Be sure you don't rock back on your heels at any point.

• Foot Position: Pause your video at the shot. If you shoot right-handed, see if a line drawn from your right heel through your left big toe runs roughly parallel to the line of the barrel. If it does, your feet are in the right place. If not, you'll see your body bind up as you swing after crossers.

Over the-Shoulder View

Gun Mount: The gun should come to your face. Your face should not dip down to meet the stock. It's O.K. if your head moves slightly forward as you bring the gun up, however.

Head Movement: Look carefully for signs of the head lifting at the shot. Raising your head even slightly, either to see the target break or to subconsciously try to escape recoil, causes a miss over the top. See if you pull the gun off your face as you swing on crossing targets.

Muzzle Movement: If the muzzle stops dead for an instant before the shot, it means you looked back at the bead to double-check your sight picture. Looking at the gun is the main cause of stopped swings, which will cause a miss every time.

Follow-through: Watch to be sure your cheek stays on the stock and the butt stays on your shoulder until well after you pull the trigger and let the shot go.

After watching several films, you will be able to tell simply by looking at your form whether you hit a bird or missed it. Once you can spot a problem, you’re on your way to solving it.