Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Orvis Sandanona Chronicles Part IV

This lesson orignally appeared in the Shotgun free weekly e-letter. To subscribe, please visit

Englishman John Higgins is the subject of our fourth installment of Shotgun Life’s Sandanona Chronicles.

We first laid eyes on John as we all boarded the shuttle from the parking lot to the staging area. Since John climbed on with three instructors from the West London Shooting School, and all were immaculately attired, it was easy to assume he was associated with the famed institution.

But we discovered during his class that he was affiliated with The British School of Shooting in the UK, and an instructor working with Orvis. We also got to know John better as he gave us a lift back to the staging area in his cart after the lesson. As it turned out, we shared the same sentiment about the shotgun sports: the number-one priority is fun, fellowship and shooting (unless of course you’re a competitor).

Now before we continue with John’s tips, here’s a quick recap on the series for readers just joining us. The Orvis Sandanona Chronicles came about from our visit to 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.

John’s class convened at a station with a pair of outgoers. The cage was perched atop a bowl-shaped depression that we hiked down into for the purpose of the lesson. There were four students in attendance. John had them call for the bird, and given our proximity to the targets, the outgoers had transformed into crossers at a height of 10-15 yards.

He started with warm-up shots to get an idea of the shooters’ skill level, and then the lesson began in earnest:

Here are tips from John’s lessons:

* Confidence is everything. 9/10ths of the success of a shot is before the gun reaches your shoulder.
* Go to the bird and then you pull ahead. For example, if the bird is doing 20 mph you want to do 21 mph.
* You should have enough time like an avenging angel to kill the target. By an avenging angel, you wait and wait and wait -- and then find it and strike.
* It’s about the marriage of timing and target picture.
* Don’t hold the gun too far back…but you look back to the trap.
* The temptation when you miss a target is to do something different. Don’t. Do the same thing, but just get ahead of the bird.
* Rhythm and coordination give you success.
* Don’t be an OWL (obsessed with lead).
* You intercept the target with your left hand -- allowing you the hand-eye coordination to give the spontaneity to strike.
* Imagine that the clay bird is looking back at you. All it needs to see is your muzzle.
* Good shooting is about your advanced application of consistent techniques.
* There are two ways to hit a dropping target: 1) hold low and go down with the bird, or 2) hold the gun close to the interception point.
* For dropping targets, you go to the right “toe” of the bird as it continues to fall.
* Let falling birds slow down so they can do all the work for you.
* On report crossers, you have to look back to the next target or you’ll get beat by speed.

You can arrange a private lesson at the Orvis Wingshooting School by calling 1-800-235-9763.