Getting Strong for Shotgunning

Most serious competitive shotgunners spend some time in the weight room developing the endurance strength they need to raise the gun a few hundred times in a day. Hunters need strong gun-lifting muscles, too, so we can make shots when we're tired, late in the day, after carrying a gun for hours and walking many miles.

You can strengthen yourself in the weight room - lateral raises and military presses work the shotgun-lifting muscles - but the easiest way is simply to practice gun mounts. Start with the gun in the unmounted position shown in the picture. Raise it smoothly to your face (always bring it to your face first, then settle it onto your shoulder), concentrating on form, not speed. Repeat. When you first start, you'll feel the burn after about 15-20 repetitions. Work your way up to 50 or 100. Not only will you build endurance strength with this exercise, you'll develop the muscle memory you need to mount the gun correctly without thinking when birds flush unexpectedly.

Most Olympic-class shooters will do 100-200 a night. I met a tiny little high school girl once who shot for the US Olympic junior team. She did her gun mounts faithfully every night - with her father's 11 pound 10 gauge! -- Phil Bourjaily, F&S Shotguns Editor