Leading Questions

Mastering the correct lead is fundamental to successful wing-shooting
Story at a Glance
  • How do shooters learn to effectively lead decoying birds?
  • Learn how professional shooters train shooters to make sure they put enough lead on a bird.
  • There is absolutely no substitute for live, decoying birds.
  • Practice, practice, practice.

By Wade Bourne

Many shooters don't apply enough lead and consistently shoot behind their targets. A few use too much lead and shoot ahead of their targets. So how do shooters learn to use the right lead so their shot column and target simultaneously arrive at the same spot?

You can't shoot often enough while to master how much to lead your target," says Scott Robertson, who has been an exhibition shooter for Beretta for 16 years. "You have to learn proper lead on the shooting range. You must learn the right sight picture for various shot angles and speeds through good instruction and lots of practice."

Robertson says an instructor will tell students if they are shooting ahead of or behind the target and make appropriate corrections. He will also help them learn proper leads on a variety of target angles, such as 90-degree crossing, 45-degree crossing, incoming/descending, and others. "After the lesson, the student must practice on his own before the next lesson," Robertson says. "I try to pace my instruction so a student can shoot 300 to 400 shells between lessons."

Robertson stresses that shooters shouldn't avoid challenging shots. "To develop your game, you have to tackle those problem areas instead of avoiding them," he says.

No Substitute for Game Birds

Besides instruction and practice on the sporting clays range, Robertson urges hunters to gain as much experience shooting game birds as possible. This should not be viewed as practice, however. Whether shooting doves, waterfowl, or other birds, hunters have an obligation to develop proficiency before shooting live birds. Still, doves offer a true shooting challenge, and dove hunting serves as a great tune-up for waterfowl seasons to follow.

"Clay targets won't flare and dart," he says. "They won't change their flight paths quickly if you miss with the first shot. Live birds will do these things, and they will help shooters learn to adapt to changing speeds and flight paths."