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One Box One Bird My Journey to Better Shotgunning

Discussion in 'Shotguns' started by Johnm1, Jun 3, 2019.

  1. Johnm1

    Johnm1 Member

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    I have tried for years to teach myself how to shoot birds with no luck. Right handed left eye dominant issues. My dove hunting motto has been “One box, One bird”. So I decided if I’m going to miss, at least I can look good while missing and now have a very nice Fox Sterlingworth 12 Gauge. New motto “Missing with Style”. This conversation came up while in the gunsmithing forum and I promised to start a new thread when I set up for some lessons to actually learn how to shoot a shotgun. Lessons are now set to begin on Saturday

    I have copied/pasted some of the posts (bullets) from that other thread so one doesn’t have to go back to that other thread to get the history.
    • You can use blinders to help with the dominant eye.
    • I have tried that. It doesn’t make up for me just “sucking” with a shotgun. I need all the excuses I can rationalize.
    • Missing with style is nice, and a Fox Sterlingworth is a nice gun to be missing with, but why not switch shoulders? I shoot off both, but mostly right even though I'm left eye dominant. We had a kid on the HS Trap team shoot his first round right handed (left eye dominant) and shot a 5. Had him switch shoulders, he doubled that the next round, and is now shooting 15-18.
    • I'll start this off with 'I have an excuse for everything ' but I did find an instructor just today. When I started shooting the CMP matches 10 or so years ag I found that my right eye would fatigue within seconds trying to acquire the sight picture. So I started shooting left handed. It worked ok even with a bolt action and didn't impact the Garand. It wasn't bad prone and sitting. Off hand was a challenge. At that point I switched to the left with my shotgun. But I'm not terribly coordinated with anything left handed. Couple that with not knowing how to shoot a shotgun and not much changed. Skip forward to 6 years ago and a minor stroke. I lost 40% of the vision in my left eye and the remaining vision in that eye turned to mush. Oddly I can read with that eye uncorrected if very close and that was actually better. But what distance vision I had left was mush. Corrected I can see while driving well. So I had to switch back to right handed. But I am still very left eye dominant. With my correction which I use all day my left eye remains dominant. So I pretty much have to close my left eye to shoot anything right handed. So I struggle no matter what I shoot except pistols. I have always shot right handed but always lined up with my left eye. Not technically correct but it works. When I deer or elk hunt for a week I take my glasses off once I arrive for the week. Within hours my right eye tries to take over dominance. I have pretty good distance vision in my right eye and if I need to read my phone or a map I can do that if I get close enough.
    • We will see what the trainer says. I'm not big at 5'-7" but for some reason the common modern shotgun configuration (think Remington 870) doesn't have enough drop and no matter how hard I try I have to adjust after shouldering a modern shotgun. The older styles shoulder well with no adjustment. That is what started me into a Fox Model B that I traded for the Sterlingworth.
    • I don't know if a bigger bead would help. My shotgunning issues are more mechanics than sight related. I think like a bullseye shooter and want to aim and then shoot. When I try to point I just end up shooting all over the place. I just need someone to help me through the fundamentals. Keep in mind I have read all that there is on how to shoot a shotgun but for some reason this is probably going to have to be learned with hands on instruction.
    • Fitting has been a chicken or the egg conundrum for me. I shoot so poorly it didn't seem to make sense to expend a lot of money for it. But that could be my entire issue. I suspect there is a lot more going on though.

      I bought my first 12 gauge many years ago for squirrel hunting in East Texas. Too much civilization to trust a .22 . A Smith & Wesson 916T pump 3" chamber 30" full choke with double bead so I could aim. I bought the 20 gauge Winchester 1200 Modified choke for less recoil and to lend out. Turns out it was enough lighter it didn't have much less recoil. It was traded along with a Fox Model B in 16 Gauge straight up for the Sterlingworth. I'm real happy about that trade. I haven't used the 20 gauge in years. I still have the S&W. It's a 3" Goose Gun and I took my first turkey with it a couple of years ago. That and many squirrels.

      I suspect the first thing we will do with the instructor is figure out what fits me. I don't know if he has access to Try guns. Reality is that the Fox seems to fit me well. At least it goes to eye level. I'll have to let the instructor see if it really fits me. I do know that I tend to roll it to the left.
    • How the stock fits you is important, if too long you shoot low, it too short you shoot high. There is an adjustable butt pad called a Morgan pad that you can adjust for drop and side to side. It may help get you on target a little better.
    • The Jones recoil plate is better than the Morgan pad in that it adjusts up down side to side (Which Morgans do not, BTW) and rotationally out to 22 degrees. The SPS https://stockpositioning.com/ systems cover all possible adjustments except possibly pitch, which is usually ground into the pad or cut from the stock if needed. Some even have recoil reduction in them.
    So, there is the hisotry. I’ll post again after Saturday’s first lesson. As much as I want to stay with the Fox, the lessons will start with one of his modern autos with replacable chokes more suited to learning. We will be learning on the sporting clays course after some indoor safety/protocol orientation. I’m open to any and all of the above suggestions I have received from the many who offered help. We will see how this turns out. I’d like to change the motto to anything other than ‘One Box, One Bird’.
     
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  2. cdb1

    cdb1 Member

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    If you are doing it right, bead size is irrelevant in wingshooting.
     
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  3. MacAR

    MacAR Member

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    I'm gonna ask a silly question: what's your gun choked? I find it somewhat difficult to kill doves with a full choke shotgun, but have no issues with my "bird gun", A BRNO sxs 12 choked I/C and MOD. Perhaps if you had the chokes on your Sterlingworth opened it might help? I had a lot of trouble with my BRNO when it was MOD/FULL and then had my gunsmith open the chokes. After that, my average has improved substantially. For example, on my last hunt of the year I killed 12 quail with 15 shots, with two of those being a right/left double. Just thinking out loud, ymmv and all that.

    Mac
     
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  4. huntsman

    huntsman Member

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    Tis better to miss with style than hit with bad form-Col Peter Hawker.
     
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  5. Johnm1

    Johnm1 Member

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    Chokes have changed over the years but I admit that a Modified 20 Ga. pump is the most open I've ever hunted with. I hunted last year with a Fox Model B the was Full/Modified (pretty sure). I no longer have the Model B. I haven't hunted with the Sterlingworth yet. I just got it recently. In reality I've had the most success with the S&W Goose Gun choked Full. It is pretty easy to hit birds either coming directly at me or directly away from me. The 12 Ga. full choke just extended the range. Anything left to right or Right to left is difficult for me no matter what gun/choke I'm using and I think that is because of mechanics. You would have to see where I hunt to understand that there aren't a lot of birds and most shots are very long and come from unexpected directions. I hunt where there aren't a lot of birds or other hunters for a couple of reasons. First, I don't have to justify how many shots I took while leaving the field either empty handed or with one bird. Second, fewer birds means fewer misses/less ammo used. This has really gotten into my head.

    Now, the lessons will be on the sporting clays course and I'll be learning with the instructors 1100 with appropriate chokes. So, that may well improve my success rate on its own.

    I don't know what the Sterlingworth is choked at and it isn't marked. It is from 1923 so I suspect it is choked Full/Modified or there about. Some where Modified /IC. I'll get a measurement soon. Although what I have read on the internet (true?) is that Fox intended the 12 Ga. Sterlingworth to shoot 2 3/4" shells from the get go, they intentionally cut the chamber short to 2 5/8". Most say it isn't an issue other than the amount of recoil. Again, I'm not sure on that.

    I am working on a 16 Ga. Lefever, also from 1923, and it is marked Full/Cylinder. I'm not yet ready to shoot that one until I can confirm the chamber length. That one was originally made with 2 9/16" chambers.

    Either the Sterlingworth or Lefever could have been modified for chamber or choke in their 95 year history. So until I get measurements I don't know what either really is. Both may end up being modified for chamber and or choke in the near future. Although nice pieces of history, neither has a great collector value.

    But the lessons are intended to teach me the basics with an appropriate firearm/choke combination. What I do with either the Sterlingworth or Lefever is unimportant. I could just as easily buy a new shotgun appropriately choked. I'll do what the lessons lead me to. This has gone on for over 30 years and it is in my head. Cross dominant issues are real but I have used that mostly as an excuse for not knowing what I'm doing. It could also be an excuse for using a tighter than necessary choke.
     
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  6. cdb1

    cdb1 Member

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    All of my life I’ve been a poor wing shooter. Ten years ago I took a half day lesson and immediately improved from poor to mediocre. I believe in lessons now.

    I saw even more dramatic improvement when Chicharrones took a lesson. The instructor convinced him to do away with the mirror and shoot in front of him instead of backwards over his shoulder.
     
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  7. George P

    George P Member

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    Remove the damn bead and STOP AIMING; that's what the bead does and is guaranteed to make you miss. This is not a rifle; you POINT the gun. If you are truly cross-eye dominant then shoot from your dominant side.
     
  8. Johnm1

    Johnm1 Member

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    I can't shoot with my dominant eye. Even corrected the vison is poor. With my glasses on in order to read what is on a TV screen clearly I have to close my left eye. The left, dominant, eye was petty much made useless in the stroke. The correction made it so I can drive with both eyes open and see a pretty clear picture. Clear enough that my left eye remains dominant even though its picture is less focused. If a sign on the side of the road has small writing on it and I want to read it I will close my left eye to do so. I am pretty much resolved to shooting with my right eye/hand. If removing the bead is what I need to do, I'll do that. I suspect with proper training I'll be able to do it correctly without removing the bead.

    In the previous thread someone posted an old video, late 60's early 70's, that made me realize a couple of things. First is that when the shotgun is shouldered your eye should not only be at the right level, but you should not be able to see the flats of the barrel rib (or barrel). I never thought about that way. All I have ever tried to do was to adjust my head so my eye was on the same level as the front bead on a shotgun with a single bead. Now, it might be the reason I seemed to do better with the 30" Goose Gun might have been that it had double bead sights and it forced me to see that sight correctly. Of course with a full choke my margins are pretty narrow. The second thing that was interesting was the actual sight picture in the video. They actually mounted a camera on a shotgun while one of their shooters demonstrated the shots. Not sure how the shooter did that as the camera weighted 30 pounds. But seeing what that shooter saw when he pulled the trigger was interesting. Interpreting what I saw will be confirmed in the lessons.

    Here is the link to the video.

     
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  9. ATLDave

    ATLDave Member

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    Shotgunning and bullseye are about as far apart as two shooting disciplines can be (maybe benchrest versus USPSA/IPSC is about as far). Target focus versus front-sight focus, pointing rather than highly refined aim, slapping the trigger rather than squeezing, etc.

    I'm no great shotgunner, but when I get it mounted correctly, I can hit some stuff; when I don't, I can't. Because you're not lining up sights, the gun has to be mounted so that it points where you are looking. There's really no "feedback" before/during the trigger press to indicate that more aiming is needed. And if you start looking consciously for feedback (focusing on the front bead, etc.) then then shot will be gone and you won't hit anyway.

    When I dust off the old scattergun, I usually do a bunch of practice-mounts of the gun the night before.
     
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  10. George P

    George P Member

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    If you are seeing rib, then you are shooting over everything. Sounds like you need to have adjustments made to your stock so it fits. Unlike a rifle where everyone just scrunches up on the stock for a stationary shot, a shotgun is used dynamically with lots of motion of you and the gun, so FIT is critical.
    Secondly, I would find a club with a pattern plate and go shoot to see where the POI is in relation to the POA.
     
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  11. Johnm1

    Johnm1 Member

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    Thanks Dave and Others,

    Please understand that I appreciate everything that has been said so far. I have read about everything I can read about how to shoot. So I have heard most, not all, before. I knew from very early on that you were supposed to point and not aim. I'm an engineer and think like one. It's easy to say 'just point'. And I have tried to 'just point'. But apparently what I think is meant by 'just point' is different than what it really is. Add to that bad mechanics, misunderstanding how it should be mounted, probably the wrong firearm and the wrong choke and who knows what else I have incorrect in my brain and I'm finally to the point where I just need someone to show me. It isn't that I can't change. I've just done it wrong form more than 30 years.

    Now I'm going to do something about it.

    I'm anxious for the first lesson on Saturday an I'll chronicle the progress here. I'm not sure if this will help anyone else or not.
     
  12. ATLDave

    ATLDave Member

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    Oh, by all means, go get that lesson. I was just observing that the very things that work well in some of your other shooting background are things that work against good wing/clayshooting.

    I'm guessing that a lot of the lesson will be on getting the gun in proper relation to your eyes, and that, once you have that sorted, stuff will start to flow from there. I bet the lessons will get you un-stuck. Good luck!
     
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  13. George P

    George P Member

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    I know how engineers think - I went to Ga. Tech - optimists see the glass as half full, pessimists as half empty;, BUT the engineer sees it as twice as big as it needs to be!
    Good luck with the lesson; I would still hit the pattern plate to see where the gun is shooting.
     
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  14. Johnm1

    Johnm1 Member

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    Oh, I want to be using the Fox in the end. I'm just going to learn on what is most appropriate for learning. Maybe I'll be able to transfer what I learn over to the Fox. It is a sweet firearm.

    I'll have to pattern that for what it is. Expect another thread on how to interpret the results in the near future.
     
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  15. George P

    George P Member

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    PM sent
     
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  16. paulsj

    paulsj Member

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    Another fine English sayin' was choke may lengthen your reach but lighten your bag.
     
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  17. Larry Ashcraft

    Larry Ashcraft Moderator Staff Member

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    I think it was Brister who used the BB gun/ping pong ball method of teaching. It works well. Get a basic BB gun ($20 at Walmart) and cut both sights off. Randomly toss some ping pong balls around your yard, (safety first of course) and just walk around and try to hit them by looking at the target, not the barrel. It gets easier with time, and it's a lot of fun. Once you get better, graduate to paint balls on golf tees. That teaches you to shoot where you are looking, not where you are aiming, which is the whole point of wingshooting. Keep both eyes open until that is natural for you. Once you get pretty good at that, you can start to focus on lead. (Did I mention that this is a lot of fun?)

    You shouldn't see the rib or the bead when shooting. Mount the gun while focusing on an imaginary target, then look at the rib and bead to see where you are pointing. If you see rib, you are going to shoot high. This is where Dave's practice mounts come in. Point at the target, and then without moving, see if the gun is actually pointing at the target.

    Leading is a complicated subject, which I'm sure your instructor will work on. I use the "bird, beak, bang method", but use whatever works for you.
     
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  18. George P

    George P Member

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    There are several methods for lead when it comes to clay targets (which can also be used for feathered targets)
    Sustained lead - you insert the barrels a certain point in front for the target and sustain that lead until you get to the point where you want to break it. Skeet folks like this the best
    Pull Away - You hold your gun at the gun hold point, call ‘pull’ and wait for the target to appear at your pick-up point. You mount onto the clay, moving with it, then pull ahead and shoot as it reaches your kill point. The clay never overtakes your barrels – you mount on it, not behind it, and ‘pull away’ in front. Useful for many sporting target presentations.
    Swing through - (Larry's Butt, Belly, Beak, Bang) where you follow the line of the target, you swing the gun to catch up, keep swinging through the target, get ahead of it and shoot, keeping the gun moving as you fire. Great for many types, also work well for wild birds
    Diminishing lead or collapsing lead - this is where you start way in front and actually collapse the lead as the bird approaches - hardest to learn but good for dropping targets.
     
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  19. Johnm1

    Johnm1 Member

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    Thanks Larry and George,

    That does sound like a lot of fun.

    I bought my first shotgun when I was 19 or 20. I'm 58 now. It was for squirrels in heavy canopy in East Texas. In most cases I could 'aim' the shotgun at a stationary target. I was never really good at moving squirrels but there were enough that weren't moving much I had decent success. I bought the 20 gauge specifically for Dove/Quail in Texas and just took it out and tried to hit birds. No instruction. And the guys I was hunting with weren't much better. So no gain there.

    I really appreciate the words so far.
     
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  20. Larry Ashcraft

    Larry Ashcraft Moderator Staff Member

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    Great advice. It's called "follow through". Most of the time if I'm missing birds, I'll find I'm stopping the shotgun at the shot. I'll shoot behind every time. I started hunting with a 12 ga when I was 11, mostly doves. My dad wasn't born into shotgunning, and he wasn't a great wingshot (good though). His only advice to me was "shoot where the bird is going to be, not where he is". I was probably 30 before I considered myself "good", and most of what I learned was trial and error. Dad was a child of the depression, and didn't believe in shooting for recreation, so I didn't shoot clay pigeons until I was probably close to 40 (I'm almost 70 now).
     
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  21. Johnm1

    Johnm1 Member

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    That is what I have always heard about follow through. Odd part is if you look at the video I linked to in this thread, the Trap Shooting using the gun camera 'appears' to stop as soon as he pulls the trigger. Now, he may have been doing that to enhance the video being made (actually film, it was made in the late '60's or early '70's). And I suspect that any trap shooter good enough to hit the target with 30 pounds of camera on top of his gun, is probably good enough to 'Crop' his shot.
     
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  22. Tusker10mm

    Tusker10mm Member

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    The wife ask me years ago -how much a pound of Dove cost?? I thought a moment and replied-- About $850.00 a pound. :)
     
  23. Johnm1

    Johnm1 Member

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    After most of my dove hunts my wife has accused me of doing nothing but incrementally raising the level of the desert. 25 shots at a time. Last year I went 0 for the season. (ok, I only hunted a couple of times)
     
  24. LoonWulf
    • Contributing Member

    LoonWulf Contributing Member

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    Wait.....the little balls are for aiming?
    That's my new excuse!

    Best of luck! and you've got me beat, I'm happy if I get a bird much less within a box.... And I don't even have a good excuse.

    Recently I've been working with a buddy who's left eye/right ha d dominate. He's learning to shoot lefty, but he's just started so it's easier. Unlucky for him, he's even worse with a shotgun than I am. Since I am that bad, we're working with rifles tho, and he's improving. Hopefully he'll be able to shoot his shotty left handed soon.
     
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  25. MacAR

    MacAR Member

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    Yea, that. Never look at your bead or even your gun barrels. I miss every time I do.

    Bingo! I learned what I call "snap shooting" while quail hunting with a bunch of old men that used old full choke shotguns and #6 shot. They seldom missed, got their limit of birds, and didn't waste ammo. They began shooting when the covey rose and stopped when either the guns were empty or birds out of range. They shot quickly, pointing the gun at the bird and trusting to instinct and years of practice. No leading, no follow through. Just point and shoot. I do the same now, and it works for me. Doves, quail, ducks, geese, makes no difference. Try it some time, it might just work.

    Mac
     
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2019
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