I hadn’t realized how dreary winter was until the birds came back. I was doing my normal dry fire routine, which typically consists of snapshots at power transformers at 200-300 yards, prominent rocks, boulders, fencepost caps, leaves, etc… I am basically looking for targets in the 12-16 MOA range (as judged by the naked eye) for snapshooting and things in the 4-8 MOA range for really testing my offhand. Suddenly I realized there was movement. I may have been more excited than my dog that the birds were back (probably not).
What a way to start the morning! Birds make you look for target indicators, e.g. shine, movement, their shape. They are small and move quickly. They don’t stay put for very long. They blend into a background once they land.
A huge benefit of this type of practice is that it’s an ideal exercise for the eyes. The eyes are constantly moving, changing focus, and motivated to provide the maximum acuity. This is the opposite of what I’m doing right now (typing with a screen in front of my face).
Another benefit of dry birding is that it motivates several key facets of effective field shooting. You have to be quick. You have to get hits. Those are 2 factors that would seem at odds, and practicing with live critters teaches the instinctive balance of those things.
“Tower, this is Ghost Rider requesting a flyby.”
“Negative Ghost Rider. The pattern is full.”
Maverick flies by.
Tower controller spills his bird seed. Curses.
Here is the game I have adopted: I try for three successive head shots on a single bird before it leaves. The first shot has to be a hit (call your shots). This applies on birds out to perhaps a maximum distance of 20 yards, although I will try to do it every time. If a head shot is not practicable, 3 body shots will suffice as well. This more inclusive approach increases the available targets to perhaps 50 yards (these are small birds, not crows or magpies).
This is great practice for bolt work as well. Practicing bolt work for its own sake is so ineffective as to be counterproductive. It’s like the millipede trying to think about how to walk faster. Thoughts get in the way. Getting instant feedback in a motivated way is, on the other hand, quite effective. When it’s just a necessity and not an end in-and-of-itself, the subconscious will take care of the improvement. On that note, I am happy to say that I have made up all of the bolt speed that I lost when switching from the Sako 75 to the FN. I might be faster, but I’m not sure. The thing just goes.
This reinforces what I already knew. The best way to get good at something is to make it fun. It should be fun in the first place, but being creative and open to what’s available will keep it fresh. The bird feeder in the photos is not mine, but I sure want one now.