One of the most simple ways to become a better shotgunner is to learn how to correctly focus on your target, whether it is made of clay or feathers. The term often used is “hard focus” but what is it and how do you do it? The idea is that instead of looking at the pheasant, you concentrate instead on the pheasant’s beak. Or, with clays, instead of looking at the whole target you look at a portion of it, say the leading edge.

This is easier said than done but there is a trick you can use to put the concept of hard focus into practice. Take a straightforward crossing target moving from left to right, for example. If you picture the target in the center of a clock face you want to pick a specific time, in this case 4 o’clock, as the spot where you’ll focus your eyes.

Try it without shooting at first. Let one bird sail by while you just look at the target without hard focus. Now, call for another bird and fix your eyes right at 4 o’clock. The sensation should be quite different. The target will be more clear in your vision and, as if by magic, it will also appear to move more slowly.

Shoot that one target repeatedly while concentrating your eyesight on the 4 o’clock position. You’ll soon be able to judge the shots where you had “hard focus” and those where your focus went soft.

With other presentations you simply need to determine where on the clock face you need to concentrate. With enough practice it will become second nature and you’ll break more birds.

—John Snow