Winter’s coming. For a lot of us, that means shotgunning becomes a pain in the…thermometer! I tend to think I love all forms of shotgunning more than the next guy, but in zero or below-zero temps I find I love them a lot less. If I work up the fortitude to shoot trap in January or go on a last-day-of-the-season pheasant hunt, there’s always the inconvenience of accommodating bulky jackets with shorter stocks.
Even if you don’t live in the North Country, getting to the range can be tough to squeeze into a busy day—and shooting (or even drilling) in the backyard might earn a sirens-blaring visit from the local constabulary!
The solution to keeping your shotgunning skills sharp through the deep, dark winter or the never-enough-time average suburban lifestyle is drilling at home—and more specifically, in your home! Here are a few drills that aren’t as much fun as burning powder, but they’ll make an amazing difference in how sharp you’ll stay in the “off” season. If you choose to attempt any of these drills, ensure that your firearm is unloaded and the safety is on before proceeding!
1. Mounting for muscle tone
It doesn’t get any simpler than this. Get out your heaviest shotgun. Stand in the middle of a room with nothing around you to prevent a clean, unencumbered mount. Position your feet like you would to take an average, straight-away shot. Relax. Now shoulder the gun just like you were preparing for a shot in trap. Hold it for a two-count then lower the gun. Repeat the whole process again. And again. Again. Again. Actually, do it at least 100 times, because that’s how many times you’ll mount the gun in an actual competition. Keep those muscles toned so they can stay competitive in the shoot-off!
2. Mounting for eye alignment
This drill is similar to the one above, and both can actually be accomplished at the same time, though in this one you’re generally mounting the gun more slowly to concentrate on technique and placement. You’ll want to use your standard competition shotgun or your most-frequently-used hunting gun. Stand facing a full-length mirror, but far enough away to mount the gun into it. Make your first mount and adjust so that what you see in the mirror is the barrel directly below the eye on your shooting side. Remember not only what it looks like, but how it feels. Then lower the gun into a relaxed position. Now, close both eyes and mount again. Reestablish the proper feel and open your eyes. Does it look the same as the first mount you worked your way into? Keep repeating until the view is perfect every time at the moment you open your eyes.
3. The 27-yard stare
The location and movements here are the same as the eyes-closed drill you just did, but this time make the mount with both eyes open, focused on the wall behind you in the mirror. Do not look back at the beads or the barrel. Your eyes need to be focused “out there” where you’re going to first see the bird.
Yet another variation on mounting in the mirror, this one is from Shoot Where You Look’s Leon Measures, who was featured here last week. This time, start with the gun in the “sporting clays” position with the buttstock below your armpit. Keep the barrel fairly level out in front of you, and have an assistant put a coin out there on the rib just a little bit behind the front bead. (Don’t cheat by hooking the penny’s edge under the bead! That doesn’t count!) Now with the same 27-yard focus, mount the gun smoothly so as not to drop the penny off the barrel. At first, you’ll have to move slowly, but the goal is to work up to the speed you’ll need to use to catch a departing mini or a ruffed grouse! If it gets too easy (and this won’t happen for awhile) start stacking coins on the rib and find out how smooth—or not—you really are.
What do you do to stay sharp in the off-season?
If you decide to take your shotgunning outdoors in the winter, here’s a “must-have” to hint for at for Christmas! ThermaCELL Heated Insoles would work equally well hunting for late-season pheasants or for mid-winter trap shooting. Strike that—you probably actually need them more at the range where you’re doing a lot less walking to keep warm!
These insights brought to you by Federal Premium Ammunition, ThermaCELL, Camp Chef, and the Quebec Outfitters Federation.