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Back to School for Duck Hunters

A little bit of professional help can aid your shooting greatly
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  • photo by Chris Jennings
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Story at a Glance

The keys to a good shot, no matter the lead length, according to Gil and Vicki Ash of OSP Shooting School:
  • Uniform mount
  • Accurate point
  • Smooth swing

by Aaron Fraser Pass

Shooting schools, with professional shooting coaches, are a growth market these days. A current annual shotgun publication lists 22 pages of shooting schools, with five to eight individual school ads per page. That's a heap of help for struggling shooters.

The big question is, can attending such a school help waterfowlers become better shots in the field?

The basic answer is yes. Competent coaching will improve shooting skills far faster than the trial-error training path many of us have followed most of our shooting careers. The best of these schools, for hunters, are those that focus on basic shotgun skills.

Back to basics? You groan. Not again!

I'm afraid so. It is usually flawed fundamentals that foul up seasonal shotgunners, including many hunters. Recently, I substantially benefited from a very short session with Gil and Vicki Ash of OSP Shooting School.

While shooting under expert eyes, I relearned some old and established shotgunning concepts from new perspectives. I found that I had developed some bad shooting habits by trying to compensate for eroded shooting skills due both to lack of practice and the slowing reflexes of age. My own particular sin was trying to use a fast swing to make up for sloppy gun mount and poor target perception and acquisition. Vicki Ash picked up on this from my first shot (which, incidentally, was a hit, if not a pretty one.)

"Mount and move" is the OSP mantra, the idea being that a smooth, accurate gun mount and swing are critical for shotgunning success. Calculation of lead, or forward allowance, is not heavily stressed. "If your mount is uniform, if your point is accurate, and if your swing is smooth, actual lead-length is very forgiving," according to Gil Ash. "Long leads and rushed swings are results of poor basic shooting form."

The OSP instructors stress early target acquisition and focused perception. Students are urged to look at the forward edge of the target, not the whole thing. "The most common mistake hunters make is to mount the gun and then look for a target," Gil Ash says. "You need to pick out and really see your target first. You should also start pointing the gun's muzzle toward the target as you start the mounting process. This is a learned skill that makes mounting and pointing so efficient that the need for raw speed is greatly reduced."

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