I talk a lot about focus or looking hard at the target when I am coaching and teaching, and sometimes people don’t know what I mean, and I forget to explain.

Focus, or looking hard at the bird means looking at one part of it. Don’t look at the whole bird; pick out the beak, the eye, the cheek patch on a Canada goose, the green head of a mallard, the ring on the neck of a pheasant.

This weekend I helped our local Delta Waterfowl Chapter with their first annual youth hunt by giving the kids a shooting lesson the day before. Most of the kids had shot before but there were three tiny girls there – the tallest was about 4 feet 8 inches – who had never fired a gun. They had little Mossberg and Remington youth guns and I had a supply of Fiocchi low recoil ¾ ounce trainer loads, so they had guns that fit and wouldn’t hurt them.

First I got them holding the guns the right way (two of the three were left-eye dominant and right handed, so I had them shoot left-handed). Then I explained they had to keep their heads on the stock all the way through the shot so the gun would shoot where they were looking. All three of them broke a straightaway target within the first five shots and I think their dads were even more excited than they were.

The real breakthrough though, came when I told them the target was actually fading just a little bit to the left (it was) and I wanted them to look at – not shoot at, but look at – the left edge of the bird. Even though I hadn’t talked to them about moving the gun or painting the target out of the sky, you could see the difference right away in how the muzzles moved through the bird to the left edge and the targets shattered.

When they remembered to narrow their focus to the left side of the bird, it broke every time. When they looked at the whole bird or in the general direction of the bird, they shot over it.

Your eyes tell the gun what to do. The more tightly you can focus on the target, the better the information your eyes send to the hands.

For more, check out Range365:** First-Time Shooter: Sporting Clays**