[su_dropcap style=”light” size=”4″]M[/su_dropcap]aybe, just maybe, you are ready for a little help with your shotgun shooting. Like a lot of us, you have been banging around for years, and you are just OK. To be perfectly honest, maybe you seem to leave each session, whether in the field for birds or on the range for clays, with a feeling somewhere between disappointment and desperation. You know you can do better, you want to do better, but you just don’t know how.
If you have the collective eyesight, reflexes, strength and coordination of an eagle, a bull elk and a young mongoose all rolled into one critter, you won’t need to hear any of this. Just take up your old shotgun, however ugly and ill-fitting it may be, and go out and shoot stuff. If you are not exactly in that category, maybe you want to read on.
Here is the deal: Not only am I going to talk to you about the benefits of taking up some shotgun instruction, I am going to suggest a place for you to go, and I think that you are going to like it.
If you are a serious shotgunner and you haven’t heard about the gun club at The Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., well, you should have. It is considered one of the top-tier, premier resorts in the world, and more locally it’s a National Historic Landmark.
Since 1778 guests have been visiting this beautiful area, and the Greenbrier, for the healing mineral springs found on the property. Today, The Greenbrier boasts over 55 activities on its 10,000-acre estate, and if I tried to tell you everything the resort had to offer, I would be in more trouble with the editor than usual. What we can talk at length about is their gun club.
Like the resort itself, their gun club has a long and fertile history. Since 1913, 26 presidents, royalty, captains of industry and celebrities have shot here – and you can too. If you are thinking, as I did, that you might be a little intimidated taking shotgun lessons at a world-class resort, don’t give it another thought. I had a sneaking suspicion I might be told to hold up my pinky finger while shooting; it wasn’t like that at all.
The staff and instructors at The Greenbrier gun club were wonderful, and made me feel at home right away. I was pleased to see that the instructors were from the area (they were all old grouse hunters), and I was impressed to learn that all of them had been trained by John Higgins and Justin Jones, world-renowned trap, skeet and sporting clay professionals, from the British School of Shooting. So, what you have are instructors steeped in deep southern Appalachian hospitality, but trained as instructors in one of the premier shotgun schools in the world. What a mix!
If you don’t want to travel with your own firearms, they have house guns ready to use. For sporting clay enthusiasts they offer Beretta 686s, both the Sporting and Onyx models, and for the trap folks, visitors can use the Browning over-and-under Model BT99 and BT100.
Curtis Kincaid, Homer Bryant, Mike Adkins and Jimmy Fraley, the instructors I worked with the day I was there, were seasoned and clearly capable of instantly spotting a shooter’s mistakes; it was uncanny to work with them. More importantly, while I was on the range with these guys, I had a great time. Teaching without preaching, learning while enjoying – this is the environment great instructors create.
On the sporting clays course with Kincaid, he, of course, picked up on some of my shotgun faults, which are legend. Kincaid addressed each problem patiently and systematically, explaining every step. More of the details from this formal lesson will have to wait for another time, but we can go over some of the basics.
Safety, safety, safety. I was happy to see that they stressed gun safety from the very beginning – muzzle control, fingers off triggers, making sure of targets, the whole nine and a half yards.
Stance and mounting the gun. Some of the information Kincaid provided, I had heard before, but not delivered in such a simple, step-by-step manner, which is aimed at doing one thing: making the student a better shooter. We all know that if our stance is off, we will miss. Kincaid took the time to explain why, and demonstrated how to teach a beginner the proper method for mounting the gun and bringing it to bear on the target. Kincaid has the shooter do what he calls “mount and bow.” The student mounts the shotgun on their shoulder and aims upward approximately 45 degrees. Once in this position, he has the shooter bow or lean forward, putting about 70 percent of their weight on the front foot. This is one of the very first things they teach to new shooters. It is the basis for everything that comes next.
Your eye is the rear sight. Big, bright front sights on your gun are counterproductive, according to Kincaid. You don’t look at your sights; rather, you look at the bird.
These are just small examples of the many topics we covered during my time there, and frankly, they can explain their techniques better than I can. There is so much more Kincaid and the boys have to share. Whatever your level, you will walk away a more proficient shooter without a doubt.
If you want to take your shotgun shooting to another level, be pampered at a world-class resort, and visit amazing countryside, check out the gun club at The Greenbrier. Tell the guys I sent you, but don’t believe half of the stories they tell about my shooting! ASJ
Author’s note: You can visit the world-class Greenbrier resort’s website at greenbrier.com, and getting there is easy via Amtrak or flights directly into the Greenbrier Valley Airport. There is no excuse not to indulge.