Riege: Taking Aim this FallPublished 6:17pm Wednesday, August 21, 2013
By Bob & Ginny Riege
I’ve always remembered a little lesson that I received as a young man from the best wingshot I’ve ever known. Back in those days when the limit was more than 5 ducks per day I watched old John and three others tumble countless ducks in a morning (all within their limits). You see I watched him in action with a certain amount of envy bordering on worship.
One day I asked John to take me hunting. He was very gracious and kind to allow a young boy to tag along and join in a day of shooting. After I had missed a couple of bluebills, I felt a hand on my shoulder and noticed a wide grin on the face of John. “Sit down and relax, son,” he said. “You’ll never hit nothin’ all tensed up. Good shotgunning and nervous pressure don’t mix.”
I noticed things about John’s gun handling that were revelations. I saw, for instance, that he never moved his gun until ducks were well within shooting range. When he finally did shoot, it was in one continuous flow of movement. He snapped to a standing position, the gun came to his shoulder and the shot went off all in one smooth sequence.
I feel that one of the biggest problems confronting most gunners is lack of familiarity with their shotguns, simply lack of experience with actual shooting. Since good shotgunning results from reflex action it follows that the more shooting you do the more automatic this reflex action becomes.
Understanding and mastering sighting and sight alignment is fundamental to becoming a complete shooter. Since most people can place a rifle to their shoulder or hold a pistol out in front of them, it is easy for the beginner to believe that hitting the target is simple. However, good sighting is fundamental to hitting the target on a consistent basis.
The first step in correctly sighting a target is achieving proper sight alignment. The term “sight alignment” refers to proper placement of the front sight in the notch of the rear sight. When you do this, be sure to use your “dominant” eye.
The dominant eye is best suited for aligning the front and rear sight of the gun. A simple way to determine which of your eyes is dominant is to select an object, such as a light switch across the room, and point to it with your index finger out in front of you. Next, close or cover your left eye. If your finger is still pointing at the object, your right eye is dominant. If your finger seems to have moved, then repeat the process, but close your right eye. If you are still pointing at the object, your left eye is dominant. Although, this method will determine your dominant eye try having both eyes open when sighting down the barrel, especially if you are a wing shooter ( bird hunter) this will enable you to have correct field of vision and allow for more of a follow through when shooting a mallard or a pheasant in flight.
The next step in sighting fundamentals involves the sight picture. As you look down the barrel of a gun and have the front and rear sights correctly aligned, place the imaginary line that is formed by the top of the rear sight at the bottom of the bull’s eye and place the center of the bull’s eye in the center of the sight. This is known as the “Six O’clock Hold” because, if you envision the bull’s eye to be the face of a clock, the front sight would be under the six. This is called your sight picture.
Learning and practicing these fundamental sighting techniques along with good trigger control are the foundation on which good shooting habits are built. Master these and you will be off to a good start as a fine marksman.
I would practice everyday just swinging my shotgun and concentrating on an imaginary duck flying from one side or the other. Learning to lead and follow through after the shot. All of these things are important to be an ethical hunter. But John taught me more than just how to shoot, he taught me to be a conservationist also. I only took the ducks that were plentiful and I only took the ducks that I could eat.
He also passed on a tradition that for many of the young people of today is diminishing. We have a real need for parents, adults, and neighbors to get the youth of today out into the outdoors. Maybe it isn’t on how to shoot a shotgun or lead a duck, but it might be to enjoy the scenery or the setting sun on a cool crisp October evening. Watching wildlife and capturing it on film is just as sporting and teaches some of the same lessons as duck hunting.
All of these lessons are something that needs to be taught to the next generation, taking aim this fall takes time and patience, but the rewards are building memories as we spend time with others afield.