John Woolley: The Overhead Shot
Sometimes ducks or geese will circle in range, but they won't commit to coming in. In such cases, hunters must resort to taking high overhead shots if they are to get any shooting at all. The dynamics of this shot are difficult for some hunters to master, however, because there is a tendency to make at least one common mistake.
Veteran international wingshooting instructor John Woolley knows how to correct this problem. He has been teaching the art of shooting for 33 years, first in his native Great Britain and later in the United States; he operates Woolley Shooting Clinics in Amelia Island, Florida.
"On high overhead shots, many shooters mount their shotguns behind the bird and pull through, squeezing the trigger as the muzzle swings ahead of the target," Woolley explains.
"However, the eyes focus on the fastest moving thing. With this approach, the barrel is moving faster than the bird, so there's a strong tendency for the shooter to move his focus back to the gun.
"Then, when the muzzle blocks the view of the target, the shooter unconsciously shifts the muzzle to one side or the other so he can see the bird, and this causes a miss. A right-handed shooter typically misses on the left, and a left-handed shooter misses on the right."
Rather than the traditional swing-through technique, Woolley teaches shooters to focus on the bird when it's incoming while holding the gun in the ready position—not mounted.
"When the bird is in range, you should mount the gun, move at the same speed as the target, pull ahead, and shoot," Woolley says. "The pull-ahead happens quickly, causing only a split-second visual disconnect with the target—not long enough to affect alignment. And don't worry about lead. Proper lead will be built into your gun mount."
In summary, Woolley says: "If your eyes have a strong connection with the target and you have good fundamental mechanics in your gun mount, you will have no problem making this shot. Just look, mount, move, and shoot, and that overhead bird is going to drop."