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The game Shot's checklist

simon ward

(Photograph: Schoffel Country)

No nonsense, easy-to-follow words of wisdom for the game Shot, from game shooting coach and Gamebore ambassador Simon Ward.


“The primary message is to engage a grouse early in its flight, some 70–80 yards in front of the line of butts, if your horizon permits.”

“My advice is to point the gun’s muzzles into the covey and a bird will suddenly show itself to be the right one. Go for it and take your shot, keeping your cheek firmly on the stock until you see the bird collapse into the heather.”

“Try to keep your weight on your front foot (left for right hander) during the shot, whether taking the bird in front or behind.”

“To help you gauge range, pace out 50 yards in the heather in front of the butts and leave a marker – look for a rock or big clump of heather for your reference point. But be sure to check with your shoot captain so he knows what you are doing.”

“In my experience many grouse are missed by head lifting while either being too inquisitive to see the result, or rushing to get to the next bird.”

“From the moment you have picked your grouse and connected the muzzles of your barrels to it, mount your gun to cheek and shoulder and the shot should be taken without hesitation.”

“Get yourself a pair of snap caps and spend some time practising your footwork, balance and smooth gun mounting, so that your gun feels like an extension of your arm for 12 months of the year. It’s all about muscle memory.”

“If you are fortunate enough to be shooting on a double gun day on the moor, a bit of pre-season training with a loader at a shooting school will help get your rhythm and timing going for the main event.”


“The higher the bird, the more I would recommend a slightly narrower stance. This aids agility and helps keep your gun moving. A narrow stance is preferred with your heels no wider than 12" apart. For high driven pheasants I recommend shooting off the back foot (right foot for a right-handed Shot, left foot for a left-handed Shot) with 60 per cent of your weight on your right foot. This leg should be straight.”

“Keep your cheek glued to the stock until you see the bird start to fall. It will aid picture memory and helps keep your gun moving.”

“When shooting high driven birds, imagine you are standing in the centre of a clock face. For perfect timing try to get yourself into the address position and ready to engage as the bird reaches 10 o’clock. The first shot is taken at 11 o’clock and, if needed, a second shot at 12 o’clock.”

“Keep your eyes glued onto the front end of the bird; i.e. the bird’s head. Easier said than done when you are presented with high birds, as the higher they are the bird’s profile shrinks and your eyes are drawn more to the body and tail.”

“When shooting high pheasants, if you can concentrate on locking on just behind the bird, you will then have more chance of holding the bird’s true line once you make the move to overtake the bird and take your shot.”

“In extreme weather conditions, notably high winds behind the birds, plan to engage sooner than you would on a calm day and don't be afraid to increase your lead pictures with a more positive follow through at the finish to your shot.”

“For high valley partridges, use the same technique as if you were shooting high pheasants, but with less lead required and a slightly shorter swing.” 

“For angled, high crossing shots, move your feet, pointing your lead hip in line with where you plan to take your shot. By taking angled, high driven birds and turning them into high crossing shots it gives you the ability to keep the bird still in view.”

“Have you noticed that if birds are driven into the teeth of a gale, some appear to hang in the heavens, and are hit by gusts? It seems wrong to recommend people not to shoot a bird in front, but a stalling pheasant like this requires no lead at all, just a moving gun.” 

“Once you have killed a bird in a flush of pheasants or partridges with your first barrel, you must always unmount between shots. Slow down, reassess what is in front of you, move your feet accordingly and then remount the gun onto the new bird.”



“Try to anticipate where your birds might come from. Check the line of Guns and your safe angles of fire in front and behind the line.”

“Remember the importance and emphasis that your lead hand is to do the pointing. For the right-handed Shot, use the left hand to point the barrel to the bird, and for the left-handed Shot the right hand.”

“To avoid ‘rainbowing’ on a crossing bird, move your feet into position before you mount your gun, and drop the opposite shoulder (i.e. left shoulder for a left to right crosser) to ensure that you stay on the right line.”

“If you find that you are struggling with form – i.e. you are consistently missing a particular bird – you probably need to go back to the drawing board. There’s no point in making the same mistake over and over. In this instance, I would really recommend going to a seasoned game shooting instructor for a bit of fine-tuning.” 

“A couple of weeks before you go shooting you should start to visualise how you want the day to go. Picture the topography, the layout of the drives and how the birds are likely to fly, and mentally go through the techniques you know you will need.”

“To help improve your range-judging skill, when you are in the garden or maybe taking the dog for a walk in the countryside, make a quick assessment of how far an object is from where you are standing, and then pace it out.”

“Another method to help improve your range judging is to walk out 10 paces from a tree, post or where your dog has been told to sit and stay. Look back at where you started from. Then walk another 10 paces, look back and keep doing the same at 10 pace intervals until you reach 100 paces.”

“Being aware of the wind speed and direction before you get to your peg on a drive can help enormously when judging the line and speed of pheasants and partridges.”

“As you add layers to keep warm, remember that you are artificially lengthening the stock of your gun and as a consequence, with your front hand in the same position, you will snag the butt on your clothing as you mount the gun.”

“Don’t underestimate the influence of muscle memory. If, for example, you were shooting pheasants with the wind at their tails earlier in the week, and you arrive at a shoot but don’t register that the birds on the first drive, at a similar height, will be flying into the wind, you may well shoot in front of them.”

“It is crucial that you keep the gun moving after you have pulled the trigger, and the simplest way to achieve this is to always plan to take a second shot.”

“For those birds which are visible to the Gun for a long time, firstly check the speed and line of the bird, so you can get your feet and body in the right position. From that point look at it in ‘soft focus’, only changing to ‘firm focus’ when it reaches your chosen shooting window. Then swing into action. By doing this it greatly helps to get your timing right and keeps your gun moving.”

“You can gauge distance in 10-yard increments, or lengths of a cricket pitch (22 yards).”

“A good night’s sleep before a day’s shooting certainly helps, but so too does ensuring you keep well hydrated.”

A favourite cartridge of the author's...


From the maker:

Gamebore's Black Gold Game cartridge is a high performance game cartridge with a reputation second to none amongst game shooters. Powered by the latest F2 powder technology and featuring Gamebore's Diamond shot to hold patterns tighter at long range, the Gordon Recoil Reduction System also cuts recoil by 15 per cent compared to other 'high performance' loads on the market. 

These loads have been developed, field tested and are used exclusively by renowned high bird specialist Simon Ward to deliver a game cartridge that is simply unrivalled.

 gameboreblackgold cartridge




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