Bryan Bilinski: The Crossing Shot
Bryan Bilinski helped bring sporting clays to America in 1982, setting up this country's first course in Houston, Texas. Today he operates Fieldsport, an upscale gun shop and wingshooting store in Traverse City, Michigan. Bilinski has instructed thousands of shooters at his wingshooting and sporting clays schools over the past 30-plus years and is a veteran waterfowl hunter and longtime DU member.
"The long crossing shot is the one most people ask for help with," Bilinski says. "It's the shot many hunters most commonly miss."
Hitting crossing birds at long ranges requires a combination of proper gun fit and good shooting form. First, a shotgun must fit the shooter in such a way that, with a proper mount, it shoots where the shooter is looking. Then the shooter must effectively track his target and fire at the right moment so the shot charge and target intersect.
To accomplish this, Bilinski teaches a swing-through shooting method. "This method is based on first moving your shotgun—in the gun down, ready position—along the imaginary flight line of the bird and matching its speed," he explains. "Then you mount the gun firmly to the cheekbone. When you're subconsciously aware of the muzzle reaching the tail of the duck, continue swinging through the beak of the bird. When you see a gap of daylight between the head of the bird and the muzzle, pull the trigger without losing focus on the head of the bird. Your hand-eye coordination makes this method possible, and simple, regardless of your skill level."
Bilinski also advises staying "in the gun" until you're sure the bird is dropping. "If you stay in your gun and the first shot is a miss, it's easier to accelerate your swing for an effective second shot," he says.
A devotee of the Robert Churchill method of instinctive wingshooting, Bilinski believes that hunters shouldn't try to quantify (or even consider) how much lead to hold on a crossing shot. "Instead, just move, mount, and shoot in harmony with the bird's speed. If you shoot when you see that gap of daylight ahead of the bird, holding the right lead will take care of itself."
For a final tip, Bilinski cautions shooters to ignore their shotgun's front sight. "The human eye can't focus on two objects at different distances at the same time, and if you focus on the sight, you'll miss. You have to learn to keep a hard focus on the bird and look through the shotgun. An old saying applies: ‘Fuzzy gun, sharp target.' Focus sharply on the head of the bird."