Help with wild bird shooting

A5 Sweet 16

Member
Mike, you have to be able to see the bird, unless it's a dead overhead, oncoming shot. My guess is that when your brain thinks the tip of your barrel is low, what's really happening is you're lifting your head (seeing more barrel & making it appear low) & actually shooting high. My experience has been (with birds dangling legs that have crash landed further on, or been knocked down w/ 2nd shot) is that a dangling leg doesn't necessarily mean their leg has been hit. I've cleaned lots of these birds that had absolutely nothing wrong w/ their legs. I think they just drop a leg sometimes if they've had a bb whistle through them somewhere. Also, when they're flying, the legs are tucked up & basically almost in line with vitals & stuff (as far as a shotgun is concerned). Straight-aways are just plain difficult if they're over 30-35 yards. Easy enough to hit; tough to kill. Pellets have to penetrate through a lot of crap (literally) to get to the boiler room & their heads/necks are well shielded.

Brent, I would buy what your saying about about lifting my head....thanks for the advice....Your so right about those straight-aways....I've POUNDED birds flying straight away thinking "That's a dead bird" and my dog ends up on an 80 yard retrieve.
My shooting prowess & advice is worth it's weight in gold. :rolleyes: ;) (actually it's worth about what you paid for it)
 

PeteRevvv

Member
You will develop an instinct for how wild birds take off and get moving in both calm and windy conditions that will help you get ahead of the shot. Your first move is to step with your front foot towards the direction the bird is flushing. This opens up your body to be able to swing through naturally. Take a bigger step on windier days. If I spot a bird/movement/dog pointing I will cheat towards a down-wind angle hoping to get my feet in place before the flush. In calm weather I will cheat towards heavy cover. In the morning I will guess they are going to crops, in the afternoon towards roosting cover. I might guess wrong but then a bird getting up into the wind will stay suspended long enough as they get headway for you to move your feet and get around on them. Part of the fun of the wild hunt and outguessing the bird. Shooting closer and sooner is actually harder as the shot is about 3 inches wide for about 20 feet and you have to be dead on. Try ground pounding a bird close up and miss when it ducks a few times and you'll learn that lesson quick. Take that first second to aim and hit them at 20-30 yards where the patterns are most dense and about 2 feet wide.

When partner hunting, I will always turn slightly away from them as they will cover flushes in their direction and I will have my slice of the field to cover. I let better shooters than me stand to my right so they can take the harder left to right shot and I can swing my right handed gun easier right to left. If I'm feeling greedy or it's "my turn" then I go down wind of a suspect bird to get more time with it in front of me.

This year the early cold has got them with thicker feathers, earlier and that makes a difference in their toughness. Wild birds are 5x as tough as pen raised both from feather thickness, wariness in flushing and their will to escape even when hit. Just this year I chased them down badger holes, had them dive under water, run through culverts and hop on one leg and no wings into cover. They can get hit multiple times with feathers flying off and both feet dangling and still fly for a mile.

I gave Browning BXD Upland a try this year because I got a good deal. I knew I was on the birds but not knocking them down. I went to Federal Prairie Storm and it was anchoring them to the ground at the same distances and farther out. That has been my same experience with several guns when I didn't shoot Federal PS. I also hunt beside a 16 gauge shooters and locals who have hunted them all their lives and can do .410, one shell challenges and come back with birds all the time so yes, gun and ammo are not the end all solution. However for a rookie or casual shooter on wild birds, give yourself every advantage with a 12 gauge and heavy shells.

Where you can shoot lead, do so and get the copper plated. Starting out the season with 2 3/4 with more open chokes since the birds don't flush as far out. After a couple days all the dummies are dead and the rest get edumacated quickly and flush wild farther out. Move up from 2 3/4 to 3 inch and go to full chokes as shots will get longer. Try to get magnums like Federal PS that go 1500FPS. You will have more BBs in a wider pattern farther out and the increased speed will help make up for you being behind when you can't always help it. The ones that do hit will have greater impact. You can watch steal pellets and trap loads rain down off wild bird backs so you are really challenging yourself when you chose those situations.
 

dakotasj

Member
PeteRevvv,

Enjoyed reading that!
Learned some things and at my age that's a good thing. I've been using PS for about 3 years, using Carlson PS early and Late chokes which pattern pretty tight. I'm really sold on the PS lead in 4 and 5, and maybe I'm asking/expecting too much but I've been somewhat disappointed in PS steel even considering the normal steel performance. So I'm considering hevi bismuth when non tox is required
Thoughts?
Thanks
 

goldenboy

Active member
In reading your post I would say this. The hardest bird to hit is one going straight away. That sounds like the first low flying rooster. Second I would tell you that any climbing bird must be covered by your barrel! If you shoot at a rising pheasant and see that beautiful bird and tail above your gun you are shooting under that bird. Also game farm birds are slower than wild ones. Those wild roosters can get up to speed and fly very fast. Good luck, it will come to you.
 

Goosemaster

New member
In reading your post I would say this. The hardest bird to hit is one going straight away. That sounds like the first low flying rooster. Second I would tell you that any climbing bird must be covered by your barrel! If you shoot at a rising pheasant and see that beautiful bird and tail above your gun you are shooting under that bird. Also game farm birds are slower than wild ones. Those wild roosters can get up to speed and fly very fast. Good luck, it will come to you.
I agree.Straight away shots, and crossing shots are the hardest.I think I might go to a full choke at times this year.I have not used one in 30 years.I'm shooting an 870, and an 11-87 most of the time, as well as a 1928 A-5 that my Dad gave me when I was 10.
 

Skeet Mc

New member
Being a trap and skeet shooter you may already know this but proper gun fit is crucial. Having my guns fitted has been the single biggest improvement to my bird to shell ratio. Trap and skeet allow you to have the gun mounted before you call for the bird. Flushing upland game birds are notorious cheaters. Find a good shotgun fitter and ask him to fit you. Custom cast, drop, pitch, length, comb, toe, rib and heel will make you more consistent in all your shooting.
 

birdshooter

Active member
We can speculate all we want on what is happening all of which is just hearsay at this point. Without someone actually watching you shoot or verifying whether the gun does or doesn't fit, it's impossible to diagnose why you are having issues on Pheasants on the internet. I will say if your shooting 5,000 rds at clays during the summer, you should have some idea of what kind of presentations (angles) if any are giving you the most problems. Are you using the same gun for clays and hunting? If not...than gun fit could very well be an issue. If it's the same gun and you do fine on clays then my first thought would be inconsistencies in gun mount and or foot position. There has been a lot of good hypotheses mentioned here already, any one or combination could be the issue. But i'm afraid until you can do a little more self diagnosis we're simply guessing.

Good luck and do keep us informed on how things are turning out.
 
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Thanks so much for all the replies!!! Lots of good info shared, and I'm very appreciative. As a rookie to wild pheasant hunting (it's my 3rd year, but I still haven't got one so I'm going with rookie) it's a lot different than clays or the game farm. Wild birds surprise me more because their location is unknown, they fly faster, and sometimes are very loud! If I could diagnose myself I'd say that I just want to bag that first wild rooster so bad for myself and for the dog that it causes some mental tension, pressure, etc. I've noticed that whether its ducks, clays, etc. I've shot my best when focused but relaxed. I know the first pheasant I missed flushed really close and flew low, and he scared the hell out of me! I believe I rushed the shot and never got my cheek down on the stock. The second bird I was in a thick ditch and again the cackle scared me and I didn't take the time to position feet before the shot. Stepping into the shot/line of the bird is really good advice. I promise to keep trying and to report back on my progress. It's bittersweet but I won't be chasing roosters this weekend, I'm heading up to northern WI to grouse/woodcock hunt with a good old college buddy. I've never got a grouse before, but boy oh boy do I want to get that pretty field golden her first rooster!!!
 

Goosemaster

New member
Being a trap and skeet shooter you may already know this but proper gun fit is crucial. Having my guns fitted has been the single biggest improvement to my bird to shell ratio. Trap and skeet allow you to have the gun mounted before you call for the bird. Flushing upland game birds are notorious cheaters. Find a good shotgun fitter and ask him to fit you. Custom cast, drop, pitch, length, comb, toe, rib and heel will make you more consistent in all your shooting.
Thats spendy!!
 

dekuiper

New member
LOTS of good tips and advice. Here is a youtube video that also talks about the proper way to mount your shotgun. Of course, as a clay shooter, this should be second nature to you (assuming the gun fits the same as your clay gun).

Slightly different topic but in response to your third bird. The one that "cackled" but you never saw color...Don't just shoot because of the cackle. The wing beat of a hen can startle us to where we hear the rooster cackle. Be sure of the color before you shoot or you may join the ranks of the accidental hen-killer...
 

A5 Sweet 16

Member
The one that "cackled" but you never saw color...Don't just shoot because of the cackle. The wing beat of a hen can startle us to where we hear the rooster cackle. Be sure of the color before you shoot or you may join the ranks of the accidental hen-killer...
I get the concept, because wing beats can get pretty raucous sometimes.
But...experienced pheasant hunters...shoot, even if the only identifying thing you have to go on is the cackle.
I usually almost always never say never, but a cackle is nowhere near the same as wing beats & will NEVER come from the beak of a hen.
In my 50 years of life, I've NEVER confused wing beats with a cackle. I doubt I'm unique.
That said, if you can't see color & don't hear a cackle....could be either. Not all roosters cackle, especially later in the season.
There've been a few times when all I could see was a profile & I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt it was a rooster.
But I've seen a lot of pheasants in my life & those times are few & far between.
 

Labs

Member
Probably more birds are missed by raising one's head off the stock to see the fall than any other reason. Breaking the stock weld even slightly, virtually assures the shot will go high. Just some food for thought.
 

Goosemaster

New member
Probably more birds are missed by raising one's head off the stock to see the fall than any other reason. Breaking the stock weld even slightly, virtually assures the shot will go high. Just some food for thought.
That is a great point, thank you for that.Also, tensing up, and pulling hard on the trigger. Also, being in the wrong position.
 

gimruis

New member
PeteRevv's advice was solid. I don't know what kind of ammo you're using but one thing I've found that greatly improves my success is the velocity of the shot. High speed ammo gets there quicker and reduces the amount of lead. I prefer Federal in Wing Shok or Prairie Storm because its 1500 fps (that's movin' for a shotgun shell). Also, if you are able to, always carry your gun in the "ready" position with 2 hands. Losing a second or two because you only had one hand on your gun is valuable time for a bird to get out of dodge. The simple act of being ready for the bird to flush really helps.
 

A5 Sweet 16

Member
If you’ve hunted a lot chances are pretty high you’ve shot a hen by accident.
Yeah, I don't call shooting a hen because you were only 99.7% certain it was a rooster an accident. That's guessing & hoping for the best. About the only way to accidentally shoot a hen is to have one move into the path of your shot just as you pull the trigger on a rooster. It happens but is very rare.
 
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