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Pull-away, is, perhaps, the least-understood method of leading a target among hunters. It’s mostly used by clay shooters, but as you can see here, it works on game as well. Pull-away is especially effective on the crossing shots that give so many people trouble. I shot this unlucky dove on opening day. It was, in fact, the first shot of the new season*, and I had just received a tune-up on pull-away shooting from instructor Haley Dunn.**

The idea behind pull-away is simple: you mount the gun on the bird’s beak or the front edge of the clay, then move the barrel ahead and pull the trigger. On a long shot like this one, which was a good 40 yards, you can mount a little ahead of the bird, then pull away. Notice that the gun doesn’t move quickly. As Haley puts it, “the gun only has to move one mile an hour faster than the target.”

As you can see in the video, I insert the muzzle slightly ahead of the bird, then push the gun farther out in front. It looks like I’m about seven or eight dove lengths ahead of that bird but I wasn’t measuring. Instead I slapped the trigger when my subconscious said “Shoot!” and you can just see the dove folding at the edge of the frame.

What I like about pull-away shooting is that you start close to the bird, taking advantage of your natural pointing ability, then stretch out to the lead. Starting close gives you a good connection or “feel” for the target. And, because you are starting in front, not swinging through from behind, you don’t feel as if you have to rush to catch up to the bird. The swing through method used by many hunters is very effective out to 25 yards or so, but very difficult to use consistently at long range because it gives you the feeling of having to scramble to catch up.

*I often miss the first shot of the new season, so I was especially pleased with this one. I filmed it with a ShotKam mounted on my gun.

** Haley Dunn is a fellow Iowan, a Pan Am games gold medalist in skeet and a professional sporting clays shooter. She is based at the American Shooting Centers in Houston.