Pattern your gun
It is really astonishing how different shell and choke combinations will shoot in your gun. A friend of mine a few years ago spent a lot of money on an aftermarket choke sure that it would improve his performance. He did the right thing and tested that choke with the ones that came from the factory. While the patterns of his new choke were okay, the factory improved cylinder that the gun came with delivered denser and more uniform patterns with his chosen load. Needless to say he learned a valuable lesson in shotgun performance, just because they say it’s better go ahead and see for yourself.
Make sure to see your target
That sounds really simple right? But it does take some effort to focus on a smaller target than the whole bird. It is very easy to get distracted by flapping wings and lose sight of the head and neck area of the bird. Try this, draw your focus to a tiny point. A bird’s eye is a perfect spot. You will be amazed how you will forget about the gun and the lead and have more success with tight focus.
Pick out a bird
The cardinal sin is to shoot at the flock. Once again we all know that but excitement can get the best of anyone and you start shooting at air. Years ago I was guiding a party on the prairies southwest of Houston, TX. A group of little Canadas came straight in to our snow spread; I think there were five of them. I let them get within twenty yards before calling the shot and five hunters emptied their guns on floating geese at 30 feet. Nothing fell.
Keep shooting until it falls
This goes back to focus and picking out one bird. Be sure that bird is hit well before switching targets. “Man I thought that one was going down so I moved to another bird” is often heard as the target rights itself and heads for the horizon.
Don’t cheap out on ammo
Premium shells carry a premium price tag for a reason. They work better. I am always amazed at the hunter who spends a small fortune on his or her gun, dog, boat, ATV, lease, decoys, whatever, and buys the least expensive ammo on the shelf. Sure it will work but the old adage “you get what you pay for” is very true in this case. Better shells are constructed of higher quality materials which leads to better patterns, cleaner kills, more smiles in a season.