Wildfowling magazine - wildfowling waterfowling duck hunting goose shooting
Letter to a Goose Virgin
Eric Begbie tries to help a beginner

Last season our club secretary was AWOL in the Falklands when a new goose shooter wrote to him seeking help with his shooting technique because he kept missing geese. The Hon. Sec.'s wife passed the letter to me to answer and here is what I said. I don't know if it helped!

Dear Goose Virgin,

Trying to help anyone's shooting technique in writing is notoriously difficult. Perfecting a style for geese is also notoriously difficult for the very reason you mention - lack of opportunity to experiment. Like you, I only fire a few dozen shots at geese each season and it took me a long time to achieve consistent success. All I can do is describe my own technique (or, at least, what I think I do).

In all my shooting, whether it be game, wildfowl, pigeons or clays, I never give the bird any conscious lead. I simply mount the gun quickly, pull through the bird and pull the trigger when the barrels pass through bird's beak. Theoretically, with that style, you automatically and unconsciously compensate for the speed, angle and range of the bird. The key is to perform the whole operation very quickly - any pause or deliberate aiming and you will certainly miss behind.

I found that, for me, this method worked well once I had steeled myself not to aim deliberately and to really snatch at the shots - worked well, that is, with all birds except geese. Eventually I found that it also worked with geese so long as I totally ignored most of the bird and "snatched" the shot at the head as if the head were a small target. The other secret is to take the shot as soon as you think the bird is within range - which often means taking it well in front. In the type of shot you mention, I suspect that you are leaving the shot too late.

Of course, you will realise that there are plenty of people who do swear by a sustained lead style of shooting. I think that this is fine for them because they get plenty of practice at consistent targets and, with experience, can work out the lead required at different speeds and ranges and angles. I can do that with crossing clays but with nothing else and I always go back to the "pull through" method.

Just another wee pointer - Do you find, like me, that you miss more birds if you see them coming for several seconds but kill more when snap shooting at birds that suddenly appear within range? If so, then I would definitely recommend that you do develop a "pull through" technique and really discipline yourself to (a) shoot early, (b) shoot quickly and (c) when you do have time to watch a bird approach, do not mount your gun until it is just within range and then "snap" shoot it.

Sorry I can't be more specific - as I said at the beginning, trying to help someone's shooting style in writing is rarely satisfactory. Good luck and keep trying!

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