Dave and I are doing lots of radio interviews now to promote the Total Gun Manual. One question interviewers keep asking is, “What is the most important piece of shotgunning advice you can give?”

I usually respond with some variation of “head on the stock, eye on target.” The other day, after a horrendous meltdown in the dove field (I finished with a limit, but it was not a good day from a birds-to-shells standpoint) I flipped through the book looking for a tip that would have saved me. It’s there, Tip 241, entitled “Swing Your Shooter” which reminds me of all the things I was forgetting to do as my frustration grew in the field.

It reads: Tip 241 “Swing Your Shooter”
A shotgun is not aimed but pointed or swung at the target. A proper swing starts before you begin the mount.

The first step is to lock your eyes on the bird. There is no reason to move the gun until your eyes can tell it where to go.

When you can see the target clearly and read its path, move the muzzle toward it as if you’re trying to hipshoot the bird. Keep moving – swinging – the muzzle along the line of flight as you raise the stock to your cheek.

The muzzle should stay below the bird so you always have a clear view of the target. Move the gun in time with the bird. I cannot emphasize enough how important those two tips are.

Being precise with lead makes you slow down or stop the gun and miss, which is why many engineers have trouble shooting shotguns: they want to be exact. Instead of feet and inches, think of lead in three increments: some, more, and a lot. “Some” is the amount of lead you see when you shoot a mid-range target. “More” is twice that, and “a lot” is twice as much as “more.”

The spread of shot provides some margin for error. Trying to aim at the last second practically guarantees a miss. Trust your eye-hand coordination to put the gun in the right place and shoot without hesitation.