Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
Seeing a target is the first step to hitting it, and Hetrick focuses on teaching people how to use their vision effectively.
"The gun is merely a tool, and your eyes are the greatest asset you have," he says. "The first lesson I work on with shooters is learning how well you are actually seeing the target."
When waterfowl hunting, many times this means seeing the bird—sometimes many birds—as well as the direction they are traveling, their speed and the angle of descent or ascent. While Hetrick understands that a mallard drake decoying in a snowstorm makes for a much different shot than a left-to-right crossing target on a sporting clays range, it's still all about target acquisition. Making visual contact and maintaining contact is crucial for shooters.
"I have many people who are caught looking at the end of gun. If you look at the end of the gun, you can't see the target. That's like trying to drive a car, but staring at the steering wheel," Hetrick says. "Your instincts are what make you a great shot, and applying those instincts on a good visual target is the first step to hitting it."
Need Somewhere to Shoot?
The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) has created a state-by-state digital directory of shooting ranges in the United States. Customize your search by selecting the type of firearm, state and zip code to find shooting opportunities near you. For more information or to find a range in your area, visit wheretoshoot.org/ This app is also available for iPhone users.
Follow Through the Target
While target acquisition is an important first step to a successful shot, Hetrick says many shooters struggle with maintaining a fluid swing while tracking the target in flight. "Shooters bring the gun up and shoot, then immediately pull the gun away to look at the target. The reason to keep your head down on the gun is because a shotgun doesn't have a rear sight. The rear sight is your eye."
Similar to a rifle, moving the rear sight—even slightly—changes the gun's aiming point. This is a common mistake made by shooters on close decoying shots. As the bird fills the shooter's field of vision, many shooters lift their head in anticipation of seeing the bird fall, which pushes the gun—and the shot—off target.