Monday, January 26, 2009

The Orvis Sandanona Chronicles Part I

This lesson originally appeared in the Shotgun Life free weekly e-letter. You can subscribe to it at Shotgun Life is the first online magazine dedicated to the best in wing and clays shooting.

The Orvis Sandanona Chronicles Part I

Shotgun Life’s Sandanona Chronicles were developed at the luxurious Orvis Sandanona Shooting Grounds ( in Millbrook, New York. On September 13th and 14th Orvis Sandanona hosted the 4th Annual Shotgun Classic and the 2008 Orvis Cup.

Shotgun Life was invited to attend the instruction areas of the Shotgun Classic. The event focused on the teaching skills of wingshooting by top instructors from around the world, including Chris Batha, Keith Lupton, John Higgins, and Roddy Watson and Alan Rose from the West London Shooting School.

We are privileged to offer you notes from these esteemed instructors over the coming weeks. In this issue of the Sandanona Chronicles we focus on Keith Lupton.

Keith conducted his lesson on the wobble trap field that threw long shots of 30-40 yards. As it turned out, his session was attended by seasoned shooters looking to fine tune their skills (including one gentleman who shot a vintage .410 quite successfully).

Keith started with a few warm-up shots, primarily to determine the skill level of his students. As part of his warm-up, he would hand-throw a target and have the shooters follow them up and down with their index finger to improve their focus. Keith noted his instructions were for two-eyed shooters.

There were six students. Keith’s approach was to have them shoot different targets and then comment on their performance for the entire group. Each shooter’s success or failure became a topic of discussion and served as an object lesson in the fine art of wingshooting.

Here are excerpts from Keith’s session:

The biggest part about hitting a target is the approach -- how to focus on the target.

  • You only have to take your eye off the target for a split second before it gets away from you.
  • When shooting low gun, by the time your gun hits your shoulder it should get you synchronized with the target. You should be close to the target but not above it.
  • There is no best way to succeed at upland shooting. The successful shooter will incorporate all three of the primary methods: swing through, sustained lead and pull-away.
  • When presented with a pair of targets, always shoot the straight-away first. The straight-away is the hardest target to come back to.
  • When you miss a target, you tend to think you were above it because the target drops. However, you’re probably behind it or under it.
  • On a report pair, you can drop your gun down a couple of inches to use your peripheral vision to establish the second target -- with your eyes looking over the shotgun.
  • Where your eyes go, so goes the muzzle of the barrel.
  • Regarding your stance, leaning forward makes you feel more aggressive. Don’t slouch.
  • In pairs, you need to break one target at a time. Focus on that first target before moving to the second. Don’t let the first one get away because you’re thinking of the second. Trust your ability to focus on the target.
  • When mounting the gun, many shooters make the mistake of raising it with their right hand. By doing that, as you move the stock to your shoulder, you also tend to drop the muzzle. Your lead hand should be the left one, with the right placing the stock to your shoulder instead of driving the stock to your shoulder.
  • If you’re “thinking” about the target you’re missing it. Wingshooting should be instinctive.

You can arrange a private lesson at the Orvis Wingshooting School at or by calling 1-800-235-9763. You can also visit the Orvis Sandanona web site at

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