Becoming a better shotgunner
Nothing can make a hunt more frustrating than doing everything right, having the birds finish exactly where you want them to and you are unable to finish it because you miss your shot. Now, I don't claim to be a world class shotgunner, but I've been shooting shotguns since the age of 12 years old and absolutely love them. I definitely will hold my own in any hunting scenario. Through the years I have learned how to become a solid shotgunner. Here are some tips to help you if you find yourself struggling at times.
Get a gun that fits you If you are shooting a gun that is too long or two short it will definitely effect how you line up and look down that barrel. More than 50 percent of shotgunners are shooting a gun that is either too short or too long. There are a ton of videos on YouTube that can show you how to figure out if your gun fits you.
Pattern your shotgun You need to know what your pattern looks like on paper at various distances. If you are one that changes chokes depending on what or where you are shooting, then you need to know what each choke pattern looks like at different distances.
Pick an ammo and stick with If you are constantly looking for cheap ammo or changing brands because it's what is on sale and not paying attention to what patterns well in your gun, you will find yourself struggling especially when trying to lead birds. You need to figure out what type of ammunition, including the shot size, that looks best on paper. You do not want a bunch of holes in your pattern where you are not covering up the bird. You also want to find a speed and stick with it. A simple change of 200 fps difference in shells can effect the amount of lead you need to apply when shooting a crossing bird. I religiously shoot one type of ammunition for ducks and one type for geese. Speed staying the same in any shot I chose to shoot.
Slow down As a guide I would preach to my clients, do not race your buddies making for a bad shot. If you take your time count to two and shoot you will drastically improve your shooting. This makes you acquire the target by hesitating that few seconds. When shooting I almost always wait for the first volley of shots, then I shoot. There are a couple of benefits to being a slower shot. First, you lessen the chance of shooting a bird that someone else is shooting and allows you to know if you shot the bird. If you are a slower shot, inevitably you will be the last one with a shell in your gun and how many times is there a bird floating that no one saw or a bird that is trying to get away and everyone is scrambling to load a 4th shell. It happens a lot and I often find I am the only one with a shell left at times.
Practice your shooting If you are unable to get in the field as often as I am, you need to get out and shoot clay pigeons or skeet. This will keep your skills honed. Remember to shoot with correct form. Your weight should be forward and you should have your head tight to the stock with both eyes open, gun stock tight to your shoulder every time. Practice this. I find if I start missing it's often because I am lifting my head off my stock to see if I shot the bird. It takes discipline and good awareness to be a good shooter consistently.
Bottom line If you spend as much time and money chasing waterfowl as me, you need to make sure you maximize your opportunity by making sure you are as proficient as you can be with the boom stick.