_by Phil Bourjaily
My video post about how to shoot crossing targets provoked confusion, discussion and disagreement on the subject of exactly what you look at when you lead a target. Do you look at the target while the gun moves in front of it, or do you look down the rib somewhere in front of the target?
Both methods have their proponents.
Some believe you have to be looking down the rib the correct distance in front of the bird when you lead a target because the only place a properly mounted gun will shoot is where you are looking. Nash Buckingham, famous outdoor writer and equally famous long range shot, said that when he shot a crossing duck he imagined an invisible moving spot in front of it and shot at that. That’s as concise a definition of the “look in front” theory as you’ll hear.
The other method is to keep a tight focus on the target and let the gun barrel move in front of it, although the gun itself stays on your face. Gil and and Vicki Ash of the OSP school and others teach this style. Your eyes stay glued on the bird’s beak or the target’s front edge and the muzzle goes ahead of the target as a blur in your peripheral vision.
I used to lead targets by shooting at the imaginary spot. For me, it didn’t work well. I have found that harder focus on the target is the solution to 90% of my shotgunning problems. Also, I spend very little time looking down the rib during a shot. My eye is on the target and the muzzle is moving past it as I bring the stock to my face. I’m pulling the trigger as the stock touches my shoulder.
But, that’s what works for me. Your mileage, like Mr. Buck’s, may vary.