Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Marksmanship for the bird hunter

Let me start by saying that I am not a great fan of Orvis. Having read most of what is available on the subject of shotguns and shooting I have found some texts that are very helpful in the practical application of technique for the upland bird hunter, and many, many that did not, or could not, distinguish between target shooting (trap, skeet, sporting clays) and the needs of the upland bird hunter. The Orvis Wing-Shooting Handbook does.

Looking for something to read last night I picked Bowlen's book from the shelf and re-read mytattered copy. Bruce Bowlen has a structured, simple approach that most bird hunters will find useful - especially those that, like me, like to carry a lightweight doublegun. 

In the early 90s I abandoned International Skeet and clays. I sold my heavy O/U target guns. I wanted to learn to shoot a light game gun well, and could not make adequate progress using the techniques that worked (mostly) for me when shooting targets in competition. I struggled to figure out how to effectively shoot a sub six pound SxS gun. Since a friend and fellow shooter, Jon Ogilvie, offered high level instruction, I also turned to him for help. After a period of years (I must be a slow learner) I evolved a personal style (a jumble of Move-Mount-Shoot and instinctive techniques) that allows me to shoot lightweight double guns reasonably well in most any field situation. I still have my off days, but I now have confidence that any bird in range is at risk.

If I had read Bowlen's book when I started in shooting truly lightweight guns at game birds in the early 80s, I would have suffered much less pain, sweat, cartridges, and embarrassment. Bruce writes clearly and lays out a clear, step-by-step method uncluttered by anecdote or self aggrandizement. This is a welcome relief from the run of the mill 'outdoor writer' for which I am very grateful. I recommend this book for any upland gunner, even one who has already figured most of it out. 

I also recommend a text by a pair of Brits, Shotgun Marksmanship by Percy Stanbury and G.L. Carlisle. This requires wading through the 'whilsts' and 'one musts' to get to the meat, but it is good. 

11 comments:

Dale Hernden said...

I am a fan of Orvis and would be interested in why you are not.

Dale

Scampwalker said...

Thanks for the tip, Mike. I'm always looking for a good read in the off-season. Is there anything devoted to the cast on/ cast off issue? I shoot lefty, and at 40, I think I'm used to shooting a gun built for a righty. I'm debating on getting a stock or two bent.

As for debating the merits of Orvis, I think it's what you grew up with. I was raised a Carhartt man, and still often wear the same canvas parka I did in high school. Show up in Orvis duds where I hunt, and you will be be made fun of.

I ain't sayin' it's fair, I'm saying it's fact. I'm sure they make lovely stuff though... just not for me.

Mike Spies said...

Dale - no knock on Orvis, I didn't mean to sound negative. It's just that Orvis has gotten pretty far from their roots, and much of what Orvis offers in hunting gear is not suitable for what I do, and where I do it. Scampwalker reflects the general attitude of us foolish Westerners I guess.

I like some of their fishing gear, and own an Orvis cane rod that I use for bass fishing.

Craig Peters Rising Sun, MD 410-658-1091 said...

I need tips on how to overcome a right hander with left eye dominance. I can scratch woodcock 'til the cows come home but couldn't hit a grouse with a nuclear weapon. I just can't get my eyes on them fast enough. I have a 5 lb .28 franchi and a 5 3/4 lb .20 ugartechia and it don't matter. I just setteled on considering myself a conservationist.

For a kid that grew up shooting an H&R single shot hammer gun and hunting in blue jeans and a wal-mart (well it was K-mart back then) orange vest and hand nitted cap, Orvis was not in the vocabulary. Even now I have a lot of Cabella's 'stuff' and get ridden by the backwoods mafia like I'm some eastern yuppy nerd. If I showed up in Orvis, well it be ugly. If I even were cheap gloves I get the rath. Although comfort is gaining my admiration, I can see jumping out of the truck with the leather gloves and tweed overcoat...... oh it be ugly! Not to mention it's overpriced anyway.

Dale Hernden said...

C'mon you guys........Craig you'd look great in breeches and Harris Tweed!

Seriously, I find Orvis's quality top notch and a better value in the long run.....

Mike Spies said...

Craig - Left eyed and right handed? Me too. You do have aLEFT shoulder... do what I did and switch.

Dale - If I get 'Orvis Endorsed' do I need to go back to driving an SUV?

Will Pennington said...

Mike--

I agree this is a very useful book and about the right length. I have re-read my copy many times - not that it shows when shooting.

I'd prefer the Carhartt look as well but I have a mid-grade Orvis Battenkill reel that I pretty fond of...

Will

Dale Hernden said...

Sorry Mike, it would take more than a SUV to get you endorsed. "Iron Chef "endorsed yes, an Orvis man no.

Craig Peters Rising Sun, MD 410-658-1091 said...

Breeches and Harris Tweed.... please I need to keep the few friends I have that will hunt with me now. Orvis endorsed, reminds me of the place south of Albany, GA Tande pointed out one day and said "that's where all the corporate ya hoos go. It's not real, just a show and blow. We're going where the real wild quail grow."

I'd switch sides but I don't shoot that much. I'm not very coordinated to begin with either so I can't imagine that would be a fast process. I think this year I shot 3 or so boxes of shells in WI and not sure I fired a shot in PA. Had more hours than ever but not much so far after Thanksgiving which is unusual. To switch I'd probably need to spend 2 weeks a year dove shooting. Switching sides while hunting grouse might be commical for me.

Jim McCann said...

I too have a copy of Bruce's book. I re-read it often. Good illustrations. Anyone want to buy mine for...oh, say $8,000?

Jim

Hamilton said...

Leaving Orvis aside for the moment, I am big fan of Bruce Bowlen. I have read his book several times, and had the pleasure of shooting with him at Orvis' shooting school in Manchester, VT. He is a great guy, and a great instructor. Like all good teachers, he finds way to keep it simple and understandable. I was hitting pretty much everything I shot at by the time I left and when I struggle with my shooting now, it is invariably because I have drifted back to too much lead calculation and aiming.