We often say “Shoulder the gun,” but what we really mean is “Cheek the gun.” To be a consistent shot with a shotgun, it must shoot where you look, and to do so your cheek must be firmly on the comb. Look around your local gun club and you’ll see that 99 percent of the shooters shooting low gun ram the gun into their shoulder, then arc the muzzle up to their cheek. That’s backwards. The bird is up there, not on the ground. It must be cheek first, then shoulder.
There’s a little ridge under our cheekbone called the zygomatic buttress, and it’s against this ledge that we need to set the stock. By so doing, we put our eye right on top of the shotgun’s comb and, if the gun fits even reasonably well, we’ll be looking right down the barrel. Wherever our eyes go, the gun will easily follow.
Light It Up
The good part about developing this tendency is that we can practice at home, away from the range. It’s free and only takes time.
One AA-battery Mini-Mag Lite fits nicely in the muzzle of an unloaded 12-gauge shotgun; the AAA works in a 20. All you need then is a room with walls and a ceiling. Start with the gun tucked between your arm and ribs. Then, looking at the upper corner of the room, push the gun toward it just like a GI with a bayonet; spear the corner in one smooth move, keeping the flashlight’s beam in the corner. The gun should come up to the cheek and then the shoulder. Do this 10 times, then take a break.
Switch to Movers
Next, imagine a bird is flying along the seam of the wall and ceiling. Starting in the far corner, again smoothly mount your gun while keeping the beam moving along the wall-ceiling seam. Ten times to the right, 10 to the left.
By developing your mount away from clays and flushing birds, there is no tendency to rush. Be deliberate until the drill feels comfortable. Top shooters practice these drills several times a day, often with 50 or more repetitions to establish muscle memory.
In the field, lock your eyes onto the bird or clay, then let your mount bring the gun to your cheek, and you can be pretty sure it’s in the bag.
Trip the Trigger
While doing these drills, dry-fire so that you’re tripping the trigger just after the stock comes into contact with your cheek. The mount, the swing, and the shot should all be parts of one fluid motion. Riding the target with your barrel is a sure way to miss.
Photograph by Denver Bryan / Images on the Wildside