Posts Tagged ‘shooting’

Shooting Lessons are a Conservationist’s Money Well Spent

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

Our shooting instructor Jeff Hughes demonstrates his shotgun mount

Last week, a group of my colleagues from Pheasants Forever’s marketing department attended a shooting lesson conducted by Jeff Hughes, proprietor of Wild Wings of Oneka Hunt Club.  The primary purpose of our visit was to record some of the lesson for use on Pheasants Forever’s website and social networking platforms.  Not only did we take away fantastic footage for the creation of that video, we also learned that even as a group of experienced shooters, we were each guilty of some very basic wingshooting mistakes.

People too often overlook marksmanship in the field as playing a role in conservation, but at its core, your wingshooting skills are directly tied to your commitment to conservation. “Crippling birds is something none of us want to have happen, so it is imperative that we always work on our shooting skills, leading to cleaner and quicker kills,” said Huges, preaching from his heart to a choir of believers (our group was comprised entirely of Pheasants Forever Life Members).

“Hunters, by their nature, love wildlife more than any other group on the planet.  In fact, hunters have backed up their love for wildlife by donating more money to habitat conservation than any other constituency,” Hughes continued, “So why wouldn’t they want to do their best to ethically harvest what they work so hard to protect?”

Jeff Hughes gives some guidance to PF’s Brian Essling as Andrew Vavra looks on.

In the past, I’ve been as guilty as anyone in letting my shooting skills deteriorate over the summer months.  Historically, I’ve grabbed the shotgun the weekend before opener, ran through a couple rounds of trap or skeet, and declared myself ready for hunting, often improving the shots I was already comfortable with, but staying the same (or getting worse) on the shots I consistently miss, which for me is the rooster flushing like an airplane straightaway from me on the runway.

However, Jeff’s pre-pheasant hunting lesson opened my eyes to just how beneficial and painless a coaching instruction can be to improving my shooting ability.  It makes common sense; we have coaches all our lives in sports and throughout our careers, why wouldn’t we get help for our favorite outdoor activity?  Enlisting the assistance of an expert shooting instructor is no different than enlisting a professional coach’s opinion on your slap shot and it just happens to be quite a bit cheaper.

If you’ve ever wondered “Was I behind or in front of that bird,” then a pre-season shooting lesson is a fun way to tune yourself up before the pheasant opener gets here.  Shooting lessons are available at most local gun clubs and are usually very affordable.  Our lesson was a mere $50 per person for one hour.  Public shooting lessons are available through Jeff Hughes’ Wings North of Pine City, Minnesota and to members of Wild Wings of Oneka.  To learn more about shooting lessons or club membership, email Jeff Hughes at

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre.

Patterning Your Pheasant Hunting Shotgun

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Earlier this week, I received an email from a Pheasants Forever supporter who recently purchased his very first over/under shotgun.  The gentleman asked a variety of very good questions.  I couldn’t immediately answer all of those questions, so I reached out to Ryan Bronson at Federal Premium Ammunition for some help.  Following are those questions with answers thanks to Bronson’s assistance.


What kind of shot pattern am I looking for out of my pheasant hunting shotgun?

(See photo to above)  This image appears on the side of every box of Federal’s Prairie Storm pheasant load.  According to Bronson, “This is an actual target that we shot with Prairie Storm.  This pattern is actually off to the right a little bit (wind drift, shooter error, etc.).  This was a 40-yard patterning target and we look for pellet counts in the 30 and 15 inch rings.  Shotgunners should be looking for even distribution with few openings in the shot pattern that a bird could fit through.  Even though this shot is 6 inches to the right, there are still plenty of pellets in the critical zones.”


What do people do for chokes in the upper and lower barrels of an over/under?  Your best choke choice is determined after patterning your gun with your preferred shot brand and size.  Personally, I like shooting open chokes.  I start with a skeet choke on the top barrel to open up the pattern as much as possible for that first closest shot.  I’ve found this to be an especially important factor in shooting Prairie Storm as the shot performs best with very open chokes.  My second barrel has an improved cylinder choke in it to retain a more open pattern, but not quite as open as my first shot, considering the bird is now rapidly getting down range.   


Is it the ammo or the choke that determines the best pattern?  It’s the combination working in harmony with your shotgun.  Finding the correct recipe through the three variables (gun, choke and ammo) will determine the best pattern for you.  If you already know your gun, then the choke and ammo choices are determined in unison. 


Bronson offered a few additional thoughts to keep in mind when patterning your pheasant shotgun:

I would emphasize understanding what your gun/ammo/choke is capable of at various distances.  Sometimes you are better off letting a bird get out away from you a little before shooting it, especially if it is a tight pattern at 15 yards. 


And if you shoot steel shot, then open the choke up too.  Steel patterns tighter than lead.  Plated lead shot, like the copper and nickel plated shot in Federal Premium will tend to pattern tighter than plain lead shot in value-priced loads because the un-plated shot will have more deformation.  But these are all general rules.  You only find specifics by shooting paper and testing.


The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre.

What’s your Rooster Shooting Percentage by Shot?

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

I traditionally shoot an over/under, so I'm limited to two chances on a rooster.

Depending upon what style of shotgun you prefer, a rooster has between one and five shots to evade your pellets.  This numbers game got my baseball mind wondering about batting averages and shooting percentages.

If you were to break down the roosters you kill with each shot in your gun, how would the percentages fall?  So to clarify, I’m not looking for the percentage of kills out of total shots taken; rather, I’m wondering which of your shots is the most effective.  Think of it as Sabermetrics for shotgunners.

For me, I bird hunt almost exclusively with over/under shotguns, so I’m limited to two shots.  Without ever tracking my shooting percentages, I’d estimate 60 percent of the birds I killed last autumn were dropped with my first shot, leaving 40 percent to my second trigger pull.

Conversely, I have a buddy nicknamed “Two Shot” because of his propensity to rush his first shot into a miss, but he almost always follows up his second shot from his Ruger Red Label over/under with a kill.  I’m guessing his first shot pulls down close to 30 percent, while his second shot skyrockets up to 70 percent of his roosters bagged.

Purely based on the observations of hunting with a wide variety of pheasant hunters over the years, I’d estimate the collective percentages to fall somewhere along these lines:

First Shot                     60% of all roosters bagged

Second Shot                 30.5%

Third Shot                    8%

Fourth Shot                  1%

Fifth Shot                     .5%

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the rationale for shouldering a semi-auto shotgun with a magazine holding five shells on a pheasant hunt.  As an over/under guy, I get caught with two empty barrels a few times each season only to have a tight-holding rooster emerge from the grass at the perfect moment for his escape.  There is no doubt I’d have a superior advantage for those situations with a beautiful Beretta Xplor in my hands.  I simply think I personally take better shots knowing that I’m limited to two trigger squeezes.

What are your shooting percentages with each shot taken in pursuit of a flushing rooster?

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre.

Strikeouts, Home Runs and Wingshooting

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

This rooster fell after a tough shot. There are no photos of yesterday's easier shot.

Recently, a fan of Pheasants Forever on Facebook posed the question, “Why do I always miss the easy shots and seem to make the unbelievably difficult ones.”  I’ve been thinking about the answer to that question a lot.  I seem to have a similar track record of shooting. 

In baseball, they say the best hitters have the shortest memories.  Cooperstown is filled with .333 hitters that Howe Sports Data also attributes thousands of strikeouts to their names.  Guys like George Brett, Willie Mays or Carl Yastrzemski could strike out the first two times in a game before delivering the game-breaking home run.  Ice cold veins, confidence and a short memory. 

I was a lifetime .264 hitter and I swing my Beretta with about the same command as I swing a Louisville Slugger.  I have a hard time letting the strikeouts and missed shots roll off my back.  Today was no different.

At 8AM, my pup went on point.  I approached and a hen lifted off.  Immediately behind me a rooster made an expert escape at the edge of shooting range.  I chased him completely out of range with two shells.  Quickly, I reloaded my over/under in time to have a third bird, a rooster, rise a few yards in front of me.  I raised my gun and squeezed the trigger hard.  And, I missed.  I must not have let go of the trigger, because I couldn’t fire the second shot right away.  By the time I figured out the malfunction, I had lost my concentration and shot well behind the rooster’s multi-colored tail.  And then the pressure mounted.

One of our goals for the Rooster Road Trip was to show how anyone can plan a public lands hunt, sight unseen, and find success.  In the span of seconds, I had an opportunity to put us on the board and relieve the pressure for the day.  And I missed. 

Over the next six hours, the pressure to produce mounted on all three of us.  Our Sprint cards weren’t producing an internet connection to post Facebook or Twitter updates and the PLOTS lands we selected weren’t producing additional rooster opportunities.  Our luck turned at Thor’s Bar & Grill in Fort Ransom.  Thanks to the friendly proprietor, we connected to his wireless service and he pointed us southwest toward better bird numbers. 

At 2:24 PM, we pulled into a Waterfowl Production Area that featured a promising looking shelter belt.  Like Buster Posey, this hot prospect tract of land produced almost instantly. 

My shorthair worked a bird through a row of trees until it finally wouldn’t hold any longer.  I had a split second to swing and squeeze before a tree would end my follow-through.  Bang . . . and it fell.  And the pressure dripped away with the sweat on my back.  A few minutes later and two more roosters were added to the day’s take.

So, why do we miss the easy shots and make the tough ones?  I’ve still got no idea.  I’m just thankful I don’t miss every shot.  Well, at least I can’t remember missing every shot.

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.