Field & Stream Online Editors
Field & Stream Online Editors

In 20 years as a shooting instructor, Gil Ash, founder of Optimum Shotgun Performance Shooting School in Fulshear, Texas, has watched target shooters and hunters fire shotguns about 5 million times. He knows why most waterfowlers miss ducks and geese: “It’s all about focus,” he says.

Zeroing in on the target may sound like obvious advice, but it’s trickier than it sounds, because it first entails choosing the right one. To consistently connect with waterfowl, for example, it’s not enough to simply pick a duck or goose. Instead, you need to narrow your focus to a particular part of the bird. Consider a crossing shot, for example. “Because the bird’s wing is creating the most motion, a shooter’s eye naturally goes to it,” Ash says. “But if you look there, you’ll miss behind. Instead, you want to concentrate on a goose’s eye or the feathers of a duck’s head.”

To help shooters accomplish that, Ash first has them practice their gun mount until it becomes automatic. Then he has them home in on the bird’s leading edge. What that is depends on the bird’s angle of flight. “Learn to focus on that leading edge-and maintain that focus while mounting the gun-and you become deadly,” he says.

Below are five of waterfowling’s toughest shots, and Ash’s advice for making them.

To learn more about Ash’s shooting school, go to or call 800-838-7533.

5 Tough Shots Made
Here’s where to focus and fire on ducks and geese flying in every direction.
Red = shoot
Yellow = focus

Quartering Away “The correct gun movement here is more of a gentle push than a full swing. Focus on the leading wing tip (the left wing on a bird quartering left and away), then nudge the barrel just to the outside of that wing and pull the trigger.”

Crossing “If you fully focus on the bird’s head and match your swing to the bird’s speed, you’ll need less lead than most hunters think. Two to 6 feet should do it. Hunters really have a tendency to look at the muzzle with this shot, to check lead. Instead, maintain focus on the bird’s head.”

Overhead “Though it’s tempting to shoot as the bird approaches, wait until it passes overhead and take it as it’s moving away. Focus on the belly and shoot just beneath it.”

Dropping “Focus on the feet and pull the trigger as soon as the gun hits your cheek. That’s all the lead you need because a bird that’s about to land isn’t moving fast.”

Rising “Here, most hunters miss low, because they want to see the bird when they pull the trigger. The gun, though, must be over the bird. Focus on the head, then blot out the entire bird before shooting.”