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Ask The Instructor: Driven Birds

Updated: Dec 20, 2022

Question: I live in England and I am primarily a driven bird shooter. Traditional shotgunning techniques don’t seem to work with this target. I’ve read Churchill and Stanbury but I have never seen the 40- to 60-yard driven bird addressed in a video. Any advice?

Answer: Simply put, the preferred technique for engaging a driven target is pass-through, also known as swing-through. I’m not a big fan of swing-through in most circumstances, but anyone who tells you that sustained lead will work on a driven target hasn’t shot driven targets.

First, let’s define a driven bird as an incoming overhead target that passes over your head, usually at an altitude of between 15 and 50 yards above your head. In order to kill it, you should start from a ready position with a relatively high muzzle angle (elevated to between 45 to 75 degrees). Insert the muzzle on or behind the target as it approaches, allowing the target to emerge from behind the muzzle. There must be a brief moment of visual connection with the target (not blocked by the barrel) before you start your pass-through move. You should then move your muzzle through the bird along its line of flight — the traditionalists call this move “butt, belly, beak” — and then pull the trigger as you cover the bird.

Obviously, the higher and faster the target, the more gun speed that’s required to kill it. I agree that there ought to be a video on how one should engage a driven target, and I’ll make a note to include it in my next DVD. Stanbury and Churchill disagreed on how one’s weight should be transferred as the shooter executes the shot, but they were in complete agreement on the essential elements required to kill a driven bird: The shooter must occlude the target in order to kill it. With that said, it is critical that your shot execution be decisive, with no hesitation once the target is covered with the barrel. As well, your visual focus should always be on the head of the bird.

Don Currie is NSCA’s Chief Instructor, an Orvis Wingshooting School instructor, and Master Class competitor. To get free shooting tips and videos, sign up for his monthly newsletter. You can also see more tips from Currie at

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