Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Proper Shotgun Mount

Typical Arizona Quail Hunting Landscape
The bottle of water just touches your lips as several Gamble's quail flush from a bush just in front of you and everything goes into slow motion. Your grip releases from the bottle and your arms snap your shotgun tight to your shoulder. Your cheek automatically goes to the comb and you lean slightly forward in perfect form as a violent flurry of whistling feathers take off in every direction. The brass bead sight is the only visible part of the far end of the barrel when you sight in on one of the fat white rumps sailing away from you at lightening speed. It all comes together perfectly. Just like you practiced it thousands of times at the range. You know this bird is going to fold up as you pull back on the trigger, but all you get is the solid resistance of immobile metal as the water bottle hits the ground.You track the bird over a thick stand of mesquite trees and a  heartbeat passes as what just happened sinks in. You lower the shotgun slack-jawed at the realization that you made the most embarrassing of rookie errors by forgetting to release the safety.

With all of the natural dangers inherent with hunting in Arizona, turning on and off a gun's safety mechanism should be second nature to anyone in the field. The terrain is rough and unforgiving enough that it is very easy to accidentally hurt yourself. If that did happen, a gunshot wound from a shotgun or rifle unintentionally firing as a direct result of not having the safety on could lead to tragic results. In Arizona It is easy to be several miles outside of cell range, so several hours of painful travel and bleeding are possible before even being able to contact somebody for help. As a relatively new hunter, this is a difficult thought process to go through. After hiking several miles out into the wilderness and missing a shot because the safety is on, it is easy to start thinking that it is acceptable to have it off as long as all fingers are off of the trigger. This is a potentially deadly mistake, but only one small part of a good shotgun mount. What's really needed is to unlearn a lifetime of bad habits and poor teachings.

Mounting a shotgun to the point of pulling the trigger is, arguably, the most important part of bird hunting. Reaction time and accuracy can mean the difference between success and failure in the field, especially if you hunt without the aid of a good bird dog. When a bird flushes there is less than a heartbeat to mount the gun aim and fire before the bird is behind a bush or otherwise out of range. This leaves no time to stop and fumble around clumsily with a safety.When shooting and hunting with rifles if you forget to turn off the safety before making a shot there is usually a moment to fix the mistake. Trap and skeet were designed to help shot gunners improve their shooting skills, but they still allow you to prepare for a shot before you have to take it, and it is real easy to take the safety off as you approach the shooting station rather then for each and every shot. For a new hunter, using these types of practice scenarios can naturally lead to not paying any attention to the safety switch in practice. This creates a bad habit that transfers into the field and is extremely difficult to overcome. It has to be committed to the muscle memory of every shotgun mount.

Practicing proper, all inclusive, mounting techniques can be done in a living room or bedroom, and cost nothing. Setting up your own individual practice routine makes it possible to put emphasis on specific problem areas that you may be having, like the safety button, or putting cheek to comb. A suitable practice routine should include all of the steps necessary to go from the carry position (safety on) to successfully aiming and firing a round. The movements should be fast, comfortable, consistent, and simple enough to mentally visualize when not practicing. Then practice often enough to make a proper shotgun mount second nature and the next time a quail flushes in front of you that bird is in the bag.

ALWAYS MAKE SURE THE SHOTGUN IS UNLOADED BEFORE EVEN THINKING ABOUT GOING INTO A PRACTICE ROUTINE! Accidentally discharging a firearm while practicing at home is dangerous and inexcusable.


  1. thanks for the comment on the illinois wisconsin fishing blog and the addition to your blog roll. ill add you to mine as well. Keep commenting and ill do the same


    1. Thanks Blake. I appreciate your support and will definitely keep commenting.

  2. Sport shooters will use a laser bore-sight indoors, following lines in their walls or ceiling, for mounting and swinging practice.
    Ammunition rulings have left waterfowl hunters no where to practice in the off season. Hunters are expected to practice with small, soft, low velocity, lead ammunition. Imagine the surprise when a hunter first pulls the trigger on opening day, when there is a 70% increase or change in velocity, recoil acceleration and aiming advance over practice ammunition.

    1. Thanks Reverend, I Hadn't thought about a bore site for that purpose. I will have to pick one up next time I am at a gun store. As far as ammunition, here in Arizona there aren't any laws (I am aware of) that prohibit using the high velocity rounds for practice, and the Arizona game and fish department (www.azgf.gov) does encourage the use of steel shot or similar though they do not require it, and as long as you are on public land, and there isn't a major road or building within a quarter mile of where you are shooting, you can shoot anything you want. I was extremely surprised in the giant difference in how a larger load feels and aims, versus the practice loads, the first time I shot one so I do understand the need to practice with what you will be using while hunting.
      Thanks for sharing such sage advice.

  3. It is the non-rifle gun clubs and indoor ranges that don’t allow hunting ammunition because of the possibility of ricocheting. Waterfowl hunters near cities and suburbs are orphaned with no where to practice or test ammunition. Practice shooting is not allowed on any public land in MN. Waterfowlers only option to get a shot off, with hunting ammunition, in the off season, is at an outdoor rifle range or private property outside the no discharge zones.