Our shooting instructor Jeff Hughes demonstrates his shotgun mount

Last week, a group of my colleagues from Pheasants Forever’s marketing department attended a shooting lesson conducted by Jeff Hughes, proprietor of Wild Wings of Oneka Hunt Club.  The primary purpose of our visit was to record some of the lesson for use on Pheasants Forever’s website and social networking platforms.  Not only did we take away fantastic footage for the creation of that video, we also learned that even as a group of experienced shooters, we were each guilty of some very basic wingshooting mistakes.

People too often overlook marksmanship in the field as playing a role in conservation, but at its core, your wingshooting skills are directly tied to your commitment to conservation. “Crippling birds is something none of us want to have happen, so it is imperative that we always work on our shooting skills, leading to cleaner and quicker kills,” said Huges, preaching from his heart to a choir of believers (our group was comprised entirely of Pheasants Forever Life Members).

“Hunters, by their nature, love wildlife more than any other group on the planet.  In fact, hunters have backed up their love for wildlife by donating more money to habitat conservation than any other constituency,” Hughes continued, “So why wouldn’t they want to do their best to ethically harvest what they work so hard to protect?”

Jeff Hughes gives some guidance to PF's Brian Essling as Andrew Vavra looks on.

In the past, I’ve been as guilty as anyone in letting my shooting skills deteriorate over the summer months.  Historically, I’ve grabbed the shotgun the weekend before opener, ran through a couple rounds of trap or skeet, and declared myself ready for hunting, often improving the shots I was already comfortable with, but staying the same (or getting worse) on the shots I consistently miss, which for me is the rooster flushing like an airplane straightaway from me on the runway.

However, Jeff’s pre-pheasant hunting lesson opened my eyes to just how beneficial and painless a coaching instruction can be to improving my shooting ability.  It makes common sense; we have coaches all our lives in sports and throughout our careers, why wouldn’t we get help for our favorite outdoor activity?  Enlisting the assistance of an expert shooting instructor is no different than enlisting a professional coach’s opinion on your slap shot and it just happens to be quite a bit cheaper.

If you’ve ever wondered “Was I behind or in front of that bird,” then a pre-season shooting lesson is a fun way to tune yourself up before the pheasant opener gets here.  Shooting lessons are available at most local gun clubs and are usually very affordable.  Our lesson was a mere $50 per person for one hour.  Public shooting lessons are available through Jeff Hughes’ Wings North of Pine City, Minnesota and to members of Wild Wings of Oneka.  To learn more about shooting lessons or club membership, email Jeff Hughes at Jeff@wildwingsofoneka.com.

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever's Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre.

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