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Thread: Help with wild bird shooting

  1. #1

    Default Help with wild bird shooting

    I didn't grow up hunting, picked it up 3 years ago. Picked up a shotgun and learned how to shoot trap because I moved across the street from a trap club. I shoot a good amount of clays, around 5,000 shells a year. I do sporting clays as well and mix up my shooting both low gun and pre-mount. This weekend I grabbed a relative's dog and went pheasant hunting in southern MN. I have never got a wild bird in my life, 3rd year trying. Friday evening I paused to get the dogs attention and one popped up on my right, loud cackles and off he flew, low over the grass. I popped off twice but didn't cut a feather. The next day different spot I'm hunting a ditch with standing corn on a dirt road(got permission from property owner first) and dog takes off along the corn row and up jumps a rooster, cackling really loud, I don't think he likes golden retrievers much. He has to fly higher because the corn is in the way. I pull up and pop off two shells and two clean misses. The fist time I went to the game farm I couldn't hit anything. But the last two trips there I was really on the money. I take a duck hunting trip once a year and I do fine there, and some days I'm really on. Later that evening walking the edge of a bean field the dog runs off into the field a few yards and is chasing like crazy, running circles, zig zags, you name it. Finally a bird flushes out and I'm looking for color don't see any and it has a really short tail so I'm thinking hen. By the time I process this I realize that it had cackled the entire time it left the ground. I was so amazed by the dog work etc. that I never even raised the gun. 0-3 on roosters last weekend and I want so bad to get my first wild pheasant. All 3 flushes were very doable shots, I felt bad for the dog, really wanted her to get her first wild rooster retrieve. I still praised her for doing her part even when I failed on my end. Is there any tips you guys have for getting better at this? Maybe I am overthinking things. Either way I am excited to get out and try again as soon as I can. The first miss I think I was so surprised by the flush that I didn't get my cheek down on the comb and shot over top of him. Shooting #2 blackcloud steel through IC choke. Going to order some bismuth 4's and give those a go. Not blaming my shooting on that though, it was my own poor technique.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2016
    Location
    Sioux Falls, SD
    Posts
    831

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    This may be off base, but make sure the birds are in range, say 40 yards or less. If your only experience is with clay birds, it's possible you're not judging range accurately with a much larger target.

    This comes with experience, but try to relax. Most times, you have more time than you think. Take that extra 1.0-1.5 seconds (seems like a long time when a rooster flushes), get your feet set, & really see that bird. Try to focus on his head, or even his beak. Forget about that pretty, long tail. They cause you to miss behind. But really see the bird, such that your body & gun are moving as you mount the gun. You're so focused on the bird, that by the time your gun is completely mounted, its time to pull the trigger & you're prepared to do it. It's real easy to snap that gun up as quickly as possible. Hard to make a good shot that way.

    Practice makes perfect. You'll get 'em. Good luck to you & the dog! Have fun!
    "Most pheasants in South Dakota don't react too well to #5s." -The Hunt for Red Rooster

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2016
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    Sioux Falls, SD
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    831

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    By the way, #2 steel & IC choke is appropriate. #4 bismuth would be fabulous. IC ok, although my preference is MOD with bismuth. (Disclaimer: All gun/choke/load combinations act different. Pattern yours to find what performs well.) But in general you should be fine with those choices.
    "Most pheasants in South Dakota don't react too well to #5s." -The Hunt for Red Rooster

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2015
    Location
    Texas
    Posts
    100

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    Good advice above from A5.
    For me, it's all about making sure I'm in front of the head/beak of the bird. When I miss, it's almost always due to shooting behind the bird.
    Getting some bismuth 4's is a great idea, I would take those over steel 2's by a wide margin.
    As far as choke, IC or Mod will both work fine. I split the difference and mostly use Light Mod.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    New Prague, MN
    Posts
    778

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    When Iím having issues or people Iím with are. I remember that people donít miss because they shoot to far in front of the birds. Itís a shot string. Also like what was stated above. You have time position yourself properly plant your feet. Aim small miss small. Glad you are finding some good opportunities. Keep at it.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2013
    Location
    MN
    Posts
    226

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    My first answer was going to be practice on clays... which you are doing.

    I have the opposite problem, I am not much of a gun guy. I love the dog work and the walking the field, but I could hardly tell you anything accurate about the mechanics of a gun. I rarely, if ever, touch my gun from the end of the season to the start of the next. I need to change that, say it every year...

    Like others have said, there is more time than you think. I often hit the Rooster on my 2nd shot because every single time I rush my first one so much, then finally settle in on it for the 2nd shot. When I can tell via my dog that we are getting close to flushing a bird, I really try to relax - my entire body, breathing, etc., get an athletic stance, feet shoulder width apart, maybe find myself an area of shorter grass (if hunting a thick area) that allows me to easily see or move on a bird that may get up in any direction. I'm not sure what it is, but when I hit on my first shot it's almost like I have tunnel vision and what lasts 1 second seems like it lasts 10 seconds, somehow I tune out every sight and sound except for that bird. When I miss, it's like I was never in tune or relaxed and the whole thing happened so fast, what happened in 3 seconds seems to have happened in .2 seconds.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Location
    Western NC
    Posts
    211

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    All good advice. Most important is keep your eye on his head/beak and keep your head down!! Just like shooting clays.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2016
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    Sioux Falls, SD
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    Bob P., you've likely already discovered this too, but when hunting w/ a flusher (e.g.: your golden), unless there's a bird in the air 10,000% of your attention (yes, that much) has to be on the dog (which is what makes it so fun, in my opinion). I also hunt w/ my gun at roughly a "port arms" position at all times. I've seen it happen too many times that people don't get a shot (or a good shot) because they weren't paying close enough attention to the dog, or their gun wasn't ready enough (down by their side; over their shoulder; etc.). A flusher will give you some warning most times (assuming you can see him), & a second is all the warning that's required for a guy to get good & ready. But they don't ALWAYS give you that much notice. It's probably partly why I'm a springer guy. Anticipation of a shot is high almost all the time. Not just when there's a point. (Please, pointer guys, I'm not trying to argue. It's OK that you love points & that I don't want/need them in my hunts.) When you can't see your flusher, thou shalt be prepared to shoot.

    And the age-old advice that we all know, that has nothing to do with shooting, but everything to do with getting shot opportunities. We all violate it occasionally & kick ourselves after the fact because we knew better.....
    and that is.....always trust your dog. If you know there couldn't possibly be a bird "over there"....go over there anyway, because often enough, you'll be proven wrong.
    "Most pheasants in South Dakota don't react too well to #5s." -The Hunt for Red Rooster

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2018
    Location
    Southern WI
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    8

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    Quote Originally Posted by A5 Sweet 16 View Post
    And the age-old advice that we all know, that has nothing to do with shooting, but everything to do with getting shot opportunities. We all violate it occasionally & kick ourselves after the fact because we knew better.....
    and that is.....always trust your dog. If you know there couldn't possibly be a bird "over there"....go over there anyway, because often enough, you'll be proven wrong.
    So very true. I have told my son this for years with his Springers. This past Sunday we were coming back to an area we had walked thru just 45 minutes earlier. Dog was going crazy and headed up the hill. I thought he was crazy and SLOWLY followed. Nice rooster jumped about 50 yards out from me. Had I done what I have always said that bird would have been half the distance and I could have missed it with 2 shots instead of not getting any off.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
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    Minnesoooota
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    Here's something else to keep in mind. Anyone who shoots a lot of Clay's during the spring and summer is used to a target that starts out fast and slows down rapidly as distance increases. It's the exact opposite with live birds and especially Phez. Phez start out slow and increase speed with distance. So naturally the first few birds of the season you almost have to remind yourself to slow down. I can tell you from being a heavy sporting Clay's shooter myself that I've missed some of those early birds in front until I remind myself to slow down. As previously mentioned foot work is imperative. Unlike Clay's where you know when and where the bird is coming from, feathered birds can come from anywhere and if your feet are wrong as you trigger the shot it usually means a miss.
    Last edited by birdshooter; 10-22-2019 at 05:40 PM.

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