So, it’s a gorgeous crisp Winter morning. You’re on the peg with a bunch of people you don’t know very well (or perhaps some good friends). What are the basics of driven shooting, so you can come away from the day with your tail in the air?
How to shoot driven pheasants

First things first. The best way to kill the bird is at a 45-degree angle. Take the driven Pheasant at a 45-degree angle at around 30 - 35 meters high, this make a well presented sporting bird.

When you see a bird in the distance, raise your gun to the ready position, just below the armpit and keep the barrels insight but under the bird. That way you can see if the bird is going to go to your neighbours either side.

As the bird approaches you, mount your gun just behind the bird, swing through the bird and pull through, maintaining a small amount of lead, pull the trigger and keep the gun moving. This should result in a perfect kill.

Etiquette wise, try not to shoot your neighbours bird. If you’re on a shoot where you don’t know anyone, it’s not ideal to drop a bird right at your neighbour’s feet. Of course, birds can curl so if you are locked on to a bird that then drifts in to your neighbour’s path…well that’s just one of those things. Hopefully they’re a friend of yours and you can laugh about it later! If guns are placed closer together, as they can be these days, it’s possible two of you will aim at the same bird. So don’t sweat it too much.

Perfecting your gun mount

Look into the distance to where the birds will come. If you see a pheasant, put your gun in that line of view. Map the gun there, and let the pheasant come in. Stay relaxed. Don’t ram the gun in your shoulder, let it touch your cheek. Don’t lean back. Keep your weight on the front foot.

When you're mounting the gun, don't aim at the bird, you don’t aim with a shotgun or you'll miss every time. Judge the speed, come from behind the bird, overtake it and shoot it like that. It’s important to keep the gun moving. Technique wise, many advocate ‘bum belly, beak, bang’. Or also, ‘belly, beak, big gap, bang’ which is more of a pull away than swinging style. You simply need to practice and find what works best for you.

There is another technique called ‘maintain lead’. For this, you mount your gun in front of the bird with the lead that you think you will need to shoot the bird, then maintain this lead until you pull the trigger, which will hopefully result in the bird tumbling out of the sky.

Make sure you know where everyone is when shooting; your neighbours, the beaters, the picker uppers. Remember that shotgun pellets are quite slow, so you have to give the bird a lot of lead. When shooting at targets of varying distances, remember to change the lead on your target, a bird at 50 yards will need more lead than one at 30.

Take the shot

Then simply shoot. It’s a common mistake to shoot the gun too late. Don’t be scared to take the shot early enough, it will give your time to use your second shot if needed and stop you scrabbling around.

If your second shot is safe and in range, it’s perfectly acceptable to fire two shots. You don’t want to wound the animal, you want to kill it. Obviously like everyone, you’d like to take it with the first barrel, but it doesn’t always happen.

How do you know when you’ve shot it?

Sometimes if you’ve successfully shot the bird, you’ll hear a cheer from the beaters. Normally you’ll hear the wing noise of the pheasant or sometimes the bird will call.

There’s always the possibility that you get the first bird of the day and you miss it. Everyone’s done it. Just put everything out of your mind when you’re shooting, relax and swing. Remember, you’re there to enjoy yourself!

Cartridge etiquette

When you’re game shooting, shoot the birds and let the cartridges fly out behind you. Don’t try to catch them as they come out, as you won’t have time if the birds are coming at you thick and fast and you need to reload asap. If you happen to have a friend stood behind you, make them stand to your opposite side so they don’t get hurt.

Always practice with two cartridges, then it will be second nature when you get to a game shoot to be able to put two cartridges in to a bird if needed.

At the end of every drive, always make sure that you pick up your empties. Please leave the countryside as you found it; tidy!

Practice in the off season

Don’t put your gun away on 1st February and leave it until August. It will help you if you keep getting your gun out and go through the elements of driven shooting. It just becomes natural then, rather than a bit of a scrabble the first day out.

Have a day out clay shooting to get back into driven shooting. Practicing on clays before the live stuff, means you are far less likely to wound birds.

Quick fire final tips

  • First of all think safety
  • Think about 45-degree angle
  • Keep the gun moving
  • Keep your weight on the front foot and your head on the wood
  • Think ‘bum, belly, beak, bang’ or ‘belly, beak, big gap, bang’
  • Stay relaxed
  • Take the shot early
  • Practice in the off season

So, there you have it. Take a little time over your preparation for driven shooting and you should have a day to remember for years to come!