how to aim a shotgun at birds

#4 Not Enough Lead

This is something I can’t stress enough to get in front of that bird! If you miss or misjudge a bird, my extremely precise guesstimations usually come in between 60% and 70% of the time because you don’t have enough lead on that bird. It’s a touchy subject because we frequently believe we have enough lead, but using the ShotKam and seeing videos of friends using it has convinced me that’s not the case.

“Quarter or double the lead of what you think you need” is the advise I give hunters. If a bird flips its head up or tries to change direction, you will know you have too much lead on it. If he doesn’t make these clear indications, you most likely shot behind him. Advertisement.

To set the scene for this example, imagine that you and a friend are out field hunting geese when a perfect flock of six appears from feet below. Three birds split your way and three his way. The majority of hunters “up” the flock by moving from the center to the outside bird. That usually results in a Hail Mary shot as the final bird sees the light at the end of the tunnel on his escape route, though sometimes it works well.

Moving from bird to bird with the maintained lead is easier, in my experience, when the next bird is already in your sights. It gives you the same advantage over the following bird and enables you to swing for a shorter distance with less body twisting. When it functions properly, moving birds from the inside out seems almost effortless.

Let’s dump the excuses and go over common shooting mistakes waterfowl hunters make and how to overcome them.

how to aim a shotgun at birds

Although hunting for waterfowl is never simple, if you use these pointers, you’ll be able to bag more birds this season. (Photo By: Foster Bartholow).

Sometimes, when you miss birds that should have been an easy wager, the adage “you can’t beat the house” feels prophetic. It’s the sensation of losing everything and becoming a joker to your friends for a few hunts afterwards.

Last year, while duck hunting in a chilly South Dakota cornfield with a 16-gauge shotgun, I made my suckers bet that I plundered. The weather was chilly, five degrees below zero, and there was a strong wind coming from the north that could bite you in the cheek if you looked at it for too long. On my side of the decoys, a lone, enormous Canada goose locked onto the landing pocket. I knew I would win even before I pulled the trigger. I told myself, “You got this easy,” as the bird hovered with its landing gear extended. When I pulled the trigger, the bird continued to fly and swiftly tucked its landing gear away. I doubled down, still no dice. I made the decision to go triple or nothing, and I left empty-handed.

Embarrassing without a doubt, especially with friends and family around. I think that because of these circumstances, all of us waterfowl hunters have developed fairly thick skins and a sense of humility. If not, it won’t take you many years to realize that there’s always another flock out there that will make you feel small. Advertisement.

There are countless justifications for shooting errors that can be made when things don’t go according to plan. Most frequently, “you should have called the shot sooner or later,” “the birds were too far (or close),” and the age-old “I thought you were shooting that bird” This list also includes problems with the gun, the choke tube, the weather, and the wind.

Watch now to find out which shooting errors are most frequently made and how to avoid them!

Prior to discussing typical shooting errors, let’s discuss the two primary ways to swing a shotgun. To improve your shooting, consider what you’re doing and consider attempting one, both, or neither of these swings.

The most common way to use the expression “tail-body-beak-bang” is to swing through. To put it plainly, you aim behind the bird, move through it, and pull the trigger when you have the proper lead. Because it is the most natural swing after mounting the gun and encourages a good follow-through after the shot, many hunters favor this technique.

Maintained Lead: I see seasoned shooters and waterfowlers who have been hunting for a number of years using this technique more frequently. Using this method, you mount the gun, place your bead in front of the target, and then essentially match the speed of the bird with the established lead. You just need to pull the trigger and maintain that maintained lead moving forward as your follow-through once you’ve locked onto the bird’s maintained speed.

You’re more likely to prevent missing and crippling birds when you have enough lead. (Photo By: Zach Dosch).

#7 Not Enough Practice

Make sure to get out and practice during the summer to ensure proper mechanics during the hunting season. Too frequently, I witness friends store their shotguns for the summer only to take them out again in the fall, needing to relearn their swing technique and muscle memory. Their shooting improves as the hunting season goes on, and by the time they master it once more, it’s time to hang up the shotgun at the end of the season—a vicious cycle, to put it mildly. Go outside, practice with friends, and set each other a challenge. To clear the cobwebs, try going dove hunting or going early season goose or teal shooting. Advertisement.

Putting in the time to practice your shooting in the off-season will boost your confidence and enable you to take more kills when hunting season rolls around. (Photo By: Foster Bartholow).

The last bit of advice I have for you is to always try and improve on your weaknesses. Figure out your problem shots and learn how to better shoot a shotgun on the trap range. Just remember every top waterfowl hunter you know was once an amateur trying to learn the ropes. Advertisement


Do you use a shotgun to hunt birds?

Why shotguns are ideal for bird hunting. The reason shotguns excel at hunting birds and other fast-moving game when compared to firearms that fire one projectile at a time is that it is dramatically easier to hit flying birds, or other small game animals, with a shotgun.

What is the best shotgun load for birds?

Although a 12 gauge works fine, 20 gauge and 28 gauge are ideal. In 12 gauge, the Federal Game Load Upland Heavy Field #7.5 is an ideal choice. These shells employ the #7.5 brass-plated lead shot, a size between #7 and #8 with a pellet diameter of approximately 0.095 inches.

What is the range of a shotgun for bird hunting?

For all-around hunting, light-modified or modified chokes are fairly easy to hit with at 25 yards yet remain effective to 40 yards. Size 2 shot is a versatile load for situations in which you might encounter geese as well as ducks; otherwise 3 shot is a good all-purpose duck pellet.

Can you aim a shotgun?

Pointing a Shotgun Because targets usually appear suddenly and move quickly, there’s no time to “aim” a shotgun. It’s designed to be pointed, with the eye sighting along the top of the barrel or rib. The sight is usually a bead on the front of the gun.