Six of the best – part 2

top_game_shots_mainWhat is the most difficult shot in all of game shooting? And how do you master it? We spoke to another six of the finest game Shots in the UK to find out.

Mark Winser

top_game_shots_mark_winserWhat is the most difficult shot in the book?

It has got to be that extreme, 50-70 yard pheasant on a windy day. It's such a tough bird to master.

What makes it so difficult?

At that height there are so many variables. Is there a crosswind? Are they sliding or drifting? Are they climbing or dropping? You've really got to be able to read their line well in order to shoot them well. And it is the shot that everyone wants to master. But in the right hands, the right gun, cartridge, choke and barrel combination will consistently bring down high pheasants. Don't get me wrong, no one will kill every bird they shoot at, though.

Top tips

You've really got to judge the line of the bird very carefully. Just stand back and watch a few, then change your technique accordingly. It has to be measured and methodical. Shooting instinctively is a waste of time. 

What cartridge and choke combination would you recommend?

For very high birds, I use ¾ and full choke with Gamebore Black Gold, 36g, 38g or even 40g No. 4s. 


Tom Payne

top_game_shots_tom_payneWhat is the most difficult shot in the book?

All shots are difficult if you don't concentrate, but if I was to name one it would be a high, flighting pigeon on a very strong wind. It really takes some shooting.

What makes it so difficult?

The reason this shot is so difficult is not due to the height, but mainly the inconsistent line of the bird. You can be beaten in a split second. With any gamebird on strong winds, they will try to keep control in flight and this will cause minor and major movements in flight, making the bird very difficult to read. 

Top tips?

For all game shooting, shoot within your ability, and your ability will improve. Understanding distance is also a key factor. If you know your distances you won't shoot at birds that are too far for good, clean kills. Fieldcraft is another major tip. Understand the bird, the conditions on a drive and the geography of the drive. This will help you read and understand birds in flight, and, of course, practice is key. 

What cartridge and choke combination would you recommend? 

My Perazzi has 32" barrels, both choked 5/8. Hull High Pheasant Extreme 32g No. 5s are a brilliant all-rounder and Hull High Pheasant Extreme 32/34g No. 4s for big stuff. Shot size is key.


Bertie Hoskyns-Abrahall

top_game_shots_bertie_hoskyns_abrahallWhat is the most difficult shot in the book?

I think the most difficult shot that I encounter relatively regularly is a pigeon that is going away and dropping. I was first made aware of this brute of a shot when trying to shoot pigeons clattering out of sycamore trees as a boy. 

You did not know where they would appear, and when they did, they were invariably dropping and quartering away. I more recently had a day's decoying in a strong headwind with my hide made in a line of Scots pine trees with overhanging branches. The pigeons appeared from behind me and the first I saw of them was as they quartered down to the decoy pattern.

What makes it so difficult?

That particular situation was made all the more challenging by the fact that the wind was so strong and the birds were not flying in a true line but making a slightly wobbly descent. They were also flying much more slowly than one normally associates with woodies. A pigeon in a strong wind seems to have so many options up their sleeve. Thank the Lord grouse do not have the aerobatic ability of the humble woody!

Top tips

If I could have, I would have put the hide on the other side of the shelter belt! In the circumstances, though, I had to keep trying slightly different combinations of lead and elevation of shot until I cracked the code. Interestingly, the lead (forward allowance) on a bird behaving like that is really built into the swing, so very little conscious lead is required. It is much more important to judge the drop well and to keep trying different combinations until you start hitting.

What cartridge and choke combination would you recommend?

I use Gamebore Black Gold in a 30g No. 6 until December, when I usually opt for 30g No. 5s. Chokes are ¼ and ¾.


Liam Botham 

top_game_shots_liam_bothamWhat is the most difficult shot in the book?

There are few birds more challenging than a very high pheasant coming off a mountain-top in the Welsh Breckons. And most of the time there will be some crosswind which makes them very difficult to read. But a grouse going away from you behind the butt is also incredibly challenging. 

What makes it so difficult?

With the grouse, because you will have been concentrating on shooting birds in front of the butt, you will be in that mindset. It is incredibly tricky to change your technique completely as you swap guns and turn in the butt. Grouse always follow the topography of the hill, so a going-away bird will invariably be dropping with the contours and also curling out to the left or right. So not only have you got to shoot beneath a going-away grouse, but you also have to read the line carefully and shoot either to the left or right. They often drop away a lot quicker than you think, so a lot of people underestimate how far beneath them you have to shoot. 

Extreme pheasants really are a specialist field; you only ever come across them on high bird shoots in places like North Yorkshire, Devon and Wales. So to really master them, you have to shoot on these shoots regularly. What makes them so challenging is reading their line accurately. They have pace, they're high so require a lot of forward allowance, and they invariably drift and curl with the wind. You really have to be quite measured in your approach; there's no point in just swinging through them and hoping for the best. You may kill the odd one, but you will never achieve any real consistency.

Top tips for tackling this particular bird?

For a going-away grouse, look at the topography of the ground behind your butt. You can assume that the birds will follow the contours, so use that to gauge where they will go. The key is to make a concerted effort to swing downwards through them strongly, almost trying to miss below. 

For high pheasants, I always assess the wind direction before the drive starts. Think about the effect that this will have on the birds. Just like an aeroplane coming into land in a crosswind, pheasants will compensate for the wind or they will be blown off-course and won't get to where they are headed. The line of the bird is just as important as lead (forward allowance), if not more so. I have always been a big watcher of sport, of what other people do, so I tend watch the first couple of birds really closely. But remember, there is no-one in this world who hits everything, so when you do miss, make sure you think about why you missed and change something. 

What cartridge and choke combination would you recommend?

I use my Perazzi over-under with 32" barrels, choked ¾ and full for everything. I am not a big changer of chokes and barrels. Rather, I believe in getting to know your gun really well and sticking with it. Don't blame the tool, blame the person using it.

In terms of cartridges, I use Gamebore, 30g No. 6s for grouse and partridge, and I sometimes go up to 32g No. 5s in October. For high pheasants I use 36g No. 4s and 35g No. 5s. 

And I only ever use fibre wads. In fact, I'm very anti plastic and I will happily take on anyone who says that fibre loads don't kill high pheasants effectively. 


Tony Ball

top_game_shots_tony_ballWhat is the most difficult shot in the book?

A high, curling cock pheasant in a strong wind. 

What makes it so difficult?

Judging the curl and, therefore, how much sideways lead to give it is difficult to master. You can't simply mount onto it and go through it as you would with a straight driven pheasant. You have go inside it in whichever direction it is curling. Some people say that you need to shoot in-line with the wing-tip, but from experience I can tell you that at times you have to shoot a lot wider than that!

Top tips

You really have to watch its line very carefully. And don't mount too early. Mount behind the bird and follow its curl to the right or left. But above all else, practise a lot! And one final tip: if you see your neighbour shoot an exceptionally high, curling pheasant, be sure to open your gun as soon as he fires!

What cartridge and choke combination would you recommend?

I use 32g Gamebore White Gold No. 5s or, if the pheasants are quite exceptional, I'll occasionally use No. 4s. I have 30¾" barrels, choked ¾ and full. 


Jamie Lee

top_game_shots_jamie_leeWhat is the most difficult shot in the book?

A high (but in range), curling, dropping cock pheasant.

What makes it so difficult?

There are so many things to calculate, many of which are incredibly difficult to judge. You have to bear in mind that the higher a curling bird is, the more ‘sideways lead' is required. It is literally as important as forward allowance. If a bird is dropping, it will invariably be gathering speed and often curl, hence the need for more lead, both forward and sideways. There's a lot to work out!

It is very interesting if you stand and watch a drive from the end of the line; you can often call which birds are going to be killed and which will be missed. Typically, pheasants flapping their wings and rising get shot. The gliding, dropping ones, however, are the ones which are most often missed. The reason being that the former is slower and straighter and the latter is faster and is easily missed up the side. 

In my opinion, all of these factors are increased when it's a cock as it's a larger, stronger bird. In my experience, of the higher birds that do get brought down, most tend to be hens.

Top tips

I don't think anyone can claim to have truly mastered this bird – some people are just better at it than others – but my advice would be to look very closely at what the birds are doing and the line they are taking. If they are flapping their wings, they will be slower and straighter, and hence will need less lead. If their wings are fixed and they're gliding, they will need more lead and some sideways allowance up the side of bird.

What cartridge and choke combination would you recommend?

I have 32" barrels choked ¾ and ¾, and my cartridge of choice is 34g No. 5 Hull High Pheasant Extreme.




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