9 Simple Upland Shooting Tips

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Got quail fever? Pick and choose from these shooting tips, then settle in and drop the bird.

By Tom Carpenter

Quail make me crazy. And that’s why I love them so. 

Even after all these years (my first quail coveys were in the patchwork dairy farm hills of southwestern Wisonsin when we still had bobs in the countryside), it doesn’t matter how prepared I am for the flush: I come unglued. 

And I wouldn’t have it any other way. The day I am cool and collected and workmanlike at the shot is the day the excitement is gone. That said, the excitement can also come at a price – namely, missed shots. And who wants to miss a shot after all that work (both on your part and your canine companion’s) to get a covey into the air?

If you’re looking for a few ideas to up your percentage of downed birds, take a look at the following nine upland shooting tips. Pick and choose the ones you think will help now. Keep others you like on the back burner to test at the range post-season, and implement into your shooting later.
 

1 Feel Your Cheek on the Stock

Nestle your cheek down on the stock and really feel the coolness of the wood, composite or synthetic. This assures that you’re looking down the shotgun’s barrel.
 

2 Keep Swinging

When you slow down or outright stop gun movement, your follow-through fails and you shoot behind. Keep your head down and the barrel moving even after you pull the trigger. 
 

3 Don't Peek 

Lifting your head as you pull the trigger changes your sight plane and assures a miss. Keep your head down. You’ll see the bird drop just fine with your head down.
 

4 Select One Bird 

With quail, this one is always worth mentioning because it's so easy to flock shoot. Instead, consciously swing and home in on one bird in the covey -- usually an outlier, straggler or bird on the edge. Don't worry about a double until bird number one tumbles.
 

5 Pick a Micro Target

Don’t shoot at an entire bird. Rather, pick out one element at the front of the bird -- the white eye stripe on a cock bobwhite, the topknot of a Gambel's, the cottontop crest on a scalie, for example – and consider that your target.
 

6 Work Your Feet

When a covey or bird flushes, take a split second to square up and plant your feet as you mount the shotgun. A steady base solidifies and smooths your swing.
 

7 Lean In to the Shot

Really lean in to the shotgun and toward the bird. This helps you achieve an aggressive stance and decisive swing. Haley Hauch, Membership Services Associate at Pheasants Forever, offers this insight: "Imagine yourself standing on the edge of a cliff. Now reach out and grab an apple that’s dangling on a tree just in front of your reach. For me that explanation was a game changer, and really let me visualize what that leaning in should feel and look like."


8 Expect to Drop the Bird

Attitude matters. Big time. Believe you're going to miss, and you will. Move with confidence and without panic, and a puff of feathers is yours.


9 Minimize Clothing

Avoid thick clothes, excessive layers and heavy coats in your fieldwear choices. The bulk only catches buttstocks and interrupts your smooth mount and swing, causing shooting panic. My shooting percentage jumped big time when I switched from a heavy jacket to light layers below a hoody or pullover and QF’s Tenzing Vest; the QF Alps Vest is another good one.