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Miss Twice or Hit Once: Learn To Slow Down

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December 21, 2011

Miss Twice or Hit Once: Learn To Slow Down

By Phil Bourjaily

“If I have time to miss it twice I would have had time to hit it once.” That is one of best and most concise bits of shooting advice I’ve read in a long time.

It came to me in an e-mail from Matthew Miltich, a friend I’ve never met face to face, a bird hunter, jazz musician* and owner of Cosmo (great dog name), the handsome Welsh springer seen here.

Matthew’s season in Minnesota is coming to a close, and he says he’s had one of his best years shooting ever by learning to slow down.

Shooting quickly is overrated, even in the grouse woods where chances are fleeting. Rushing leads to throwing the gun to your face hastily, resulting in both in bad gun mounts and in looking at the gun. (try this experiment: take an unloaded gun. Mount it slowly while keep your eye on a distant object. Now throw the gun to your face. Notice how your eye goes to the gun).

Shooting fast also means you pull the trigger before your eyes are locked on the target. You can’t move the gun until your eyes can tell it where to go, and to do that, your vision has to be focused on the bird. That’s where Matthew’s advice is sort of the shooting equivalent of “measure twice, cut once.” You make sure your eyes go where they have to go, and only then do you move the gun and make the shot without hesitation – all in the time it takes someone else to miss twice.

*Matthew plays bass and his son Sam (Sammiltich.com) plays guitar. Together they keep old school jazz alive in northern Minnesota.

Comments (19)

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from Beekeeper wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

Good advice Phil, but if I take too much time I tend to think too much and that in my case ain't good!

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from RES1956 wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

It's all in the eyes. How quickly one can acquire the target with absolute focus should determine how quickly the shot is fired. Folks with better eyes will acquire the target faster and the shot will be taken quicker, simple as that.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from A Wild Beast at... wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

I hunt perdiz in Uruguay every other year, and all the shooting is done over pointing dogs. We generaly average 100 birds in five days, and shooting too fast is the main reason that I miss.

When we shoot too fast, besides any hand eye coordination issues, the shot pattern is very small, and if we happen to hit the bird it will be literally blow to pieces! A complete waste.

Take your time, save a shell and save a bird.

Please, read my blog at http://awildbeastatheart.blogspot.com

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Michigan Gunner wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

"You fight like you train." Bruce Lee

MG

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sarge01 wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

Wyatt Earp said "You can't miss fast enough"

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from NHshtr wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

Seems over the years it's gotten a little easier to slow down, watch the bird for a brief moment and shoot. I don't think I learned that; I think it has to do with my age!

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

I also note that at the end of a hard day hunting I tend to shoot better (finally!). Fatigue makes me slow down considerably when drawing the gun up. Shooting in slow motion definitely has its advantages.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from dneaster3 wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

Incidentally, a police officer who knows about such things first hand has given me the same advice for combat shooting. "Slow down and hit what you intend to hit."

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from GERG wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

I also think Wyatt Earp said be as fast and deliberate as slow as possibe. Which I guess would apply here too. Except the birds dont shoot back.LOL

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bernie wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

I took a two-hours shotgunning course from a professional trainer several years ago. He said, "You do a lot of things right, but you need to slow down." I've been working on that ever since.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from MReeder wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

Pretty good advice, although I think it also depends a bit on what you're shooting. My biggest problem at the beginning of dove season is shooting fast enough. The tendency is to slow down and shoot behind and I have to force myself to speed up my shot. One thing I've found helpful is to wait until the doves are almost on top of me so that I have less time to mount the gun and swing. The problem is that when I switch over to quail I have a tendency to blow them to pieces on the rise since they look like helium ballons compared to doves. I have to force myself to wait them out, which of course means I start missing again until I shoot enough times to adjust to their flight.
That's a great looking Springer, by the way. I thought it was a Brit when I first saw the picture, since it looks a looks a lot like mine, other than the droopy ears. Also has the same lunatic grin on its face. I love my Brittany -- it's hard not to love something that works so hard to please you and worships you so much it tries to crawl inside your skin -- but they are as crazy as a flock of loons.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from azduane wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

This past dove season I would repeat to myself "slow is smooth, smooth is fast" and it seemed to help me with my shooting. At least I took just over a box of shells (29 to be exact) to get my 10 bird limit so I was pretty happy.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Urbane_Redneck wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

Most folk don't practice shooting fast. They plod along at trap and skeet breaking clays at predictable intervals and comfortable distances. Many sporting clays courses are set up to allow for too much "face time" on presentations as it makes scoring easier when missed birds don't collide with trees.

You need to practice fast, to kill fast.

Happy winter holiday or astronomical event of your choosing!

U_R

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from ishawooa wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

I think Bee is right about a slow shot and thinking about the target. I even find myself missing at trap if I analyze prior to pulling the trigger. That said I am certain that I can acquire more hits when I take my time rather than hurrying to kill the bird. Honker's comment of getting more hits at the end of the day came to my mind when I read Phil's topic content. I am sure most of my misses come early in the day perhaps due to several reasons but rushing to the shot is certainly included.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Maxwell Holstein wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

Your point is well taken, not only in bird hunting but I also found the same to be true in deer hunting. This year I started using my Thompson Contender 30/30 w/4 power scope & found that the only way to properly acquire the target was to focus on the target and slowly but delibertly raise the weapon up until my eye, scope and target were in line. Anything else & I'd spend too much time trying to line the target in the scope.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from billerooo wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

I give the advice to kids - make sure of the first shot in every flight of ducks or geese and you will kill more birds than most. In short, I agree, take the time to make the first one count. Now on Redneck's comment - the more practice that people get on predictable targets such as skeet and clays the better and faster they are going to be at the unpredictable shots in the field. My son is 13 now and thanks to SCTP and the guys that volunteer to coach the youth at the Tulsa Gun Club my son outdoes me in the field quite often.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Longbeard wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

Oh, heck, its only fair to fire a warning shot first.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Kerby wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

When young I could shoot grouse quickly with a .410. Now I need a .12 ga and must slow down but not too much and overthink. On the other hand I would shoot to quick and miss rabbits when I was young, that is not a problem anymore. Things just keep changing the older I get.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ol Krusty wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

Great advice. Reminds me of a saying my grandpa told me when I was a teenager "You never have time to do it right the first time, but you always have the time to go back and re-do it."

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from Beekeeper wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

Good advice Phil, but if I take too much time I tend to think too much and that in my case ain't good!

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from NHshtr wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

Seems over the years it's gotten a little easier to slow down, watch the bird for a brief moment and shoot. I don't think I learned that; I think it has to do with my age!

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

I also note that at the end of a hard day hunting I tend to shoot better (finally!). Fatigue makes me slow down considerably when drawing the gun up. Shooting in slow motion definitely has its advantages.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Longbeard wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

Oh, heck, its only fair to fire a warning shot first.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from RES1956 wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

It's all in the eyes. How quickly one can acquire the target with absolute focus should determine how quickly the shot is fired. Folks with better eyes will acquire the target faster and the shot will be taken quicker, simple as that.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from A Wild Beast at... wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

I hunt perdiz in Uruguay every other year, and all the shooting is done over pointing dogs. We generaly average 100 birds in five days, and shooting too fast is the main reason that I miss.

When we shoot too fast, besides any hand eye coordination issues, the shot pattern is very small, and if we happen to hit the bird it will be literally blow to pieces! A complete waste.

Take your time, save a shell and save a bird.

Please, read my blog at http://awildbeastatheart.blogspot.com

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Michigan Gunner wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

"You fight like you train." Bruce Lee

MG

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sarge01 wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

Wyatt Earp said "You can't miss fast enough"

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from dneaster3 wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

Incidentally, a police officer who knows about such things first hand has given me the same advice for combat shooting. "Slow down and hit what you intend to hit."

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from GERG wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

I also think Wyatt Earp said be as fast and deliberate as slow as possibe. Which I guess would apply here too. Except the birds dont shoot back.LOL

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bernie wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

I took a two-hours shotgunning course from a professional trainer several years ago. He said, "You do a lot of things right, but you need to slow down." I've been working on that ever since.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from MReeder wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

Pretty good advice, although I think it also depends a bit on what you're shooting. My biggest problem at the beginning of dove season is shooting fast enough. The tendency is to slow down and shoot behind and I have to force myself to speed up my shot. One thing I've found helpful is to wait until the doves are almost on top of me so that I have less time to mount the gun and swing. The problem is that when I switch over to quail I have a tendency to blow them to pieces on the rise since they look like helium ballons compared to doves. I have to force myself to wait them out, which of course means I start missing again until I shoot enough times to adjust to their flight.
That's a great looking Springer, by the way. I thought it was a Brit when I first saw the picture, since it looks a looks a lot like mine, other than the droopy ears. Also has the same lunatic grin on its face. I love my Brittany -- it's hard not to love something that works so hard to please you and worships you so much it tries to crawl inside your skin -- but they are as crazy as a flock of loons.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from azduane wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

This past dove season I would repeat to myself "slow is smooth, smooth is fast" and it seemed to help me with my shooting. At least I took just over a box of shells (29 to be exact) to get my 10 bird limit so I was pretty happy.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Urbane_Redneck wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

Most folk don't practice shooting fast. They plod along at trap and skeet breaking clays at predictable intervals and comfortable distances. Many sporting clays courses are set up to allow for too much "face time" on presentations as it makes scoring easier when missed birds don't collide with trees.

You need to practice fast, to kill fast.

Happy winter holiday or astronomical event of your choosing!

U_R

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from billerooo wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

I give the advice to kids - make sure of the first shot in every flight of ducks or geese and you will kill more birds than most. In short, I agree, take the time to make the first one count. Now on Redneck's comment - the more practice that people get on predictable targets such as skeet and clays the better and faster they are going to be at the unpredictable shots in the field. My son is 13 now and thanks to SCTP and the guys that volunteer to coach the youth at the Tulsa Gun Club my son outdoes me in the field quite often.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from ishawooa wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

I think Bee is right about a slow shot and thinking about the target. I even find myself missing at trap if I analyze prior to pulling the trigger. That said I am certain that I can acquire more hits when I take my time rather than hurrying to kill the bird. Honker's comment of getting more hits at the end of the day came to my mind when I read Phil's topic content. I am sure most of my misses come early in the day perhaps due to several reasons but rushing to the shot is certainly included.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Maxwell Holstein wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

Your point is well taken, not only in bird hunting but I also found the same to be true in deer hunting. This year I started using my Thompson Contender 30/30 w/4 power scope & found that the only way to properly acquire the target was to focus on the target and slowly but delibertly raise the weapon up until my eye, scope and target were in line. Anything else & I'd spend too much time trying to line the target in the scope.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Kerby wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

When young I could shoot grouse quickly with a .410. Now I need a .12 ga and must slow down but not too much and overthink. On the other hand I would shoot to quick and miss rabbits when I was young, that is not a problem anymore. Things just keep changing the older I get.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ol Krusty wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

Great advice. Reminds me of a saying my grandpa told me when I was a teenager "You never have time to do it right the first time, but you always have the time to go back and re-do it."

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

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