The Best Shooting Position When Hunting With a Shotgun

  • Written By Eric Crouch on September 28, 2020
    Last Updated: January 31, 2021

Shooting a shotgun is great fun and there is a lot of rewarding sport surrounding shotgun use. Whether you are the skeet shooter, bird hunter, pest controller, boar hunter, or even the farmyard target shooter, your shotgun is an essential tool and the skills needed to use it are just as important.

If you are already shooting shotguns for recreation, pest control, or hunting then you will know what position to get into when you are shooting. This article is designed to broaden the horizons of those of you out there that want to change up your game and start shooting your shotgun in different environments. We will be guiding you on a few different positions that are suited for different tasks so you can enter a new field within your shooting career with an insight on how to begin.

What Can You Use a Shotgun for?

Shotguns are extremely versatile, and they can be used in a range of applications for sport, hunting, and pest control. They are great to have around your property for pest control and home defense in an emergency, they are easily maintained, and simple to shoot and learn with. They make for a great hunting weapon for the beginner and experienced marksman alike for shooting a range of game from waterfowl, birds in flight, up to boar, when the correct cartridge is used. There are plenty of sports surrounding the shotgun as well, so if you are not one for hunting and pest control you can home-in your skills with a range of different target sports. Below we have a list of the most popular sports and applications that shotguns are favored for:

Skeet: Skeet is a popular field sport that revolves around hitting targets with a shotgun. The marksman is based on a field with two disk-firing machines located around him/her. The machines fire clay disks known as “clay Birds” or “clay pigeons” in opposing directions to simulate the flight of two birds. The field in which the marksman stands has a clock-like face surrounding them, with a clay-firing machine on 6 and 12 of the clock face.

The marksman moves around half of the clock and shoots from different positions which affects the angle of the shot thus altering the difficulty levels.  Skeet is a competitive sport but originally it was designed for practicing wing shooting. It is now a huge sport across the U.S and Europe and there are hundreds of clubs and competitions where you can learn, practice, and compete.

Trap: Trap shooting is similar to skeet in the fact that it is practiced by shooting a shotgun at clay birds. The clay-birds (or pigeons) are released at a constant height however they enter the air at differing angles. The unknown angle of the release from the oscillating trap machine makes for an exciting and unpredictable sport that requires a lot of skill from the marksman. When you start trap shooting, it can be extremely confusing as it seems the clay birds are flying all over the place in every which way. Although confusing at first, once you get the hang of switching positions quickly and your reflexes get better, trap becomes extremely fun and addictive!

The marksman stands in front of the trap (house) while looking over it with the shotgun. When the marksman is ready, he shouts “pull” and the clay birds are released. When you are shooting trap you must predict the angle of the birds and line up to where they will fly in the sky. After some practice, you will be able to predict the flight path once the clay pigeon is released, you can then aim high and hope the clay crosses your sight.

Pest Control and Hunting Land Game: Shooting pests and game with a shotgun is a great way to control pest populations on your land or property and take home some game meat after a day hunting. Mastering the use of a shotgun is relatively easy compared to other firearms because instead of having to fire a single bullet or pellet at a target you fire a spread of shot (small lead pellets). The size of the shot inside your cartridge will depend on the type of animals you are shooting. Heavier bulkier shot is better for larger game and pest species and lighter compact shot is better for smaller pest and game species. Smaller gauges of shot will give you a large dense spread but less impact when you hit the target. Larger shot will give you a more dispersed spread, but the shot makes a harder impact and packs more of a punch to take out larger animals.

Shooting pests and game can take place almost anywhere but you are restricted to the types of animals you can target. When shooting a shotgun, it is not humane or efficient to shoot anything larger than a bore, and even when targeting animals as large as these you must have a powerful firearm and large “slug” cartridges. Slugs are cartridges that are loaded with one or two large pellets that are heavy enough to take down bigger animals when shot from a powerful shotgun.

Hunting Birds in Flight (Wing Shooting): Hunting birds that are in flight makes for great sport and it is an extremely popular activity especially in the UK where pheasant hunts are a favorite past time for people of all ages. It is not just the gentry and the people with money that can enjoy a day out shooting birds though, it is universally accessible for people across the U.S and Europe. Not all can afford to get out on organized pheasant shoots but most of us can afford to take out pigeons in flight for pest control and take a few ducks or geese in the open season.

Wing shooting is an exciting past time and the shotgun is the best weapon of choice for this venture. The spread of the shot makes it possible to take down birds that dart across the sky above you and in front of you. Bird shooting is where the popular sports of trap and skeet come from after all, and you can’t get any better than the reel thing. Practicing wing shooting for real also means you can bring something home to the table rather than shooting inedible clay birds all day long.

Shooting Positions for Shotgun Use

Skeet: When shooting skeet, you should stand with your feet spread a shoulder-width apart with your knees slightly bend to help you transfer energy and keep your balance. Your left foot should be placed forward (right foot for left-handed shooters) and your toes should point around 45-degrees toward the clay’s flight path. You can swing your body at the hip to move with the target as it flies in front of you, ensuring you are bent at the knees will make this swivel action easier. That is the basic position when shooting toward the sky in most situations from skeet, trap, and wing shooting live game.

There are different positions that you must shoot from in skeet. These positions affect the angle of your shot to make the sport more diverse, interesting, and difficult. You have 8 stations to shoot from in skeet. Station 1 starts directly beside the high-throw machine, 8 sits in between the high and low-throw machines, and 7 sits directly beside the low-throw machine. The rest of the stations 2 through to 6 are situated on a semi-circle between both machines.

Trap: When you are shooting trap, you should hold the more or less the same position as when you are shooting skeet. Your feet should be spread shoulder-width apart with your lead foot angled around 45-degrees toward the trap machine. The nature of trap requires you to swivel less than skeet, but your knees should have a slight bend so adjusting your aim when predicting clay bird placement is easier. Ensure your arms are locked and your hold is firm to ensure an accurate and precise shot.

You will be positioned in front of the trap and you should get your position on-point before shouting pull. When the clays are released, you should hold your position and only take full aim when you think you know the trajectory of the clay bird. Once your certain, hold aim and pull the trigger when the clay bird comes into view. It may sound simple but shooting clays when partaking in trap takes a while to get used too. If you stick at it, keep a cool head, and practice, then time will improve your skills and aid your kill (or hit) count massively.

Pest Control and Hunting Land Game: When you are shooting pests and game on the ground you will usually adopt a standing position. You will build the same skeletal structure as if you were shooting trap or skeet, but your aim will be horizontal rather than angled upwards. Keep your feet a shoulder-width apart and your lead foot angled toward your target. You should have a slight bend in the knee and your shotgun should be braced in the shoulder with your trigger hand holding it firm. Your other hand should sit underneath the barrel on the pump-action grip.

Once you are in a good firing position you should take aim and fire without any jolts, flinches, and sudden movements. Firing a shotgun is relatively easy and it is a great way to learn the ropes to eventually progress in hunting. Start with smaller game and work your way up as your confidence and skill level increase. Even if you are not particularly accurate at first, the shot spread should make up for this (unless you are way off target). You will quickly develop your skills and you will easily get on top of that pesky pest issue or will be taking home game every day that you please.

Hunting Birds in Flight (Wing Shooting): The shooting position for wing shooting probably seems fairly obvious after reading about the last few shotgun uses. To shoot wildfowl in the air you will have to adopt the same shooting position as trap and skeet because these two sports are based around the real thing. You should keep your legs a shoulder-width apart, your lead foot forward, and brace your gun in an upright position ready to fire. Instead of a clay bird passing across your sight, a real bird will cross and at this point, you fire and collect your quarry. Simple!

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