How to Shoot Birds on the Wing
You aim where the bird isn’t, so that he and the bullet meet at the intended spot
Edward C. Crossman
THERE is one great rule in successful shotgun shooting —don’t shoot at the bird; shoot where he’s going to be. There are exceptions of course, but as a rule shooting directly at a flying object with the shotgun means a miss.
Probably the most exasperating set of figures in the world, and the most useless in actual practice, are those which pertain to the time of flight of a charge of shot; the bird’s speed and its exact distance from the gun. Mathematically simple is the problem of putting the center of a shot charge precisely over a bird flying at a given distance and at a given speed. It is simple enough to calculate the distance a bird will fly in a given time and then to calculate the time the shot charge takes in getting to the bird, and so the distance the gun must be pointed ahead. The little joker lies in the fact that in real life at least two unknown quantities enter into the problem—first the distance to the bird, second the speed of the bird. So quickly does the whole thing happen that the shooter has no time to find out the distance to the quarry, while the speed of birds varies. So successful shooting becomes a matter of experience, governed by a sort of sixth sense which is eventually acquired by the veteran scatter-gunner.
If the bird is a crossing bird and flying 40 miles an hour at a distance of 40 yd., then he’s traveling in round numbers 60 ft. per second, and in a tenth of a second, 6 ft. A charge of shot of size used for upland birds, takes .14 sec. to travel 40 yd. In .14 sec. our bird travels 8.4 ft. There is also a slight delay after one’s brain signals the finger to pull, which amounts to one .01 of a second and up, or say six inches more travel by the bird. So the hapless wight firing directly at his bird, misses him by nine feet, less a foot or two for the spread of the pellets which might have gotten the bird had the charge passed within a foot or two of being right.
So comes the necessity for either holding ahead or swinging ahead of any bird going at an angle to the line of fire, and the necessity for throwing the gun muzzle ahead of the bird regardless of its direction, distance or speed. The spread of the pellets—giving a killing circle 35 in. across at 40 yd. in the case of the full choke gun and more in guns not so
much choked—takes care of some error in holding, else few of us would ever hit a bird; but the man who depends on the spread of his shot to connect is going to believe after a bit that his “pattern,” the spread of the shot, isn’t much wider
than an ordinary small-sized saucer. The good shot usually swings ahead of his bird and keeps on swinging as he presses the trigger. Some men swing
Where to aim with the second shot when the birds have passed and are going away
up from behind and swing very rapidly past, pulling when they feel they are far enough ahead. Others throw the gun up ahead of the bird and swing along at about the speed of the flyer. The man who swings rapidly by the bird has to lead it less than the man who swings at bird speed, because the speed of his gun-swinging carries him farther ahead than he realizes by the time the charge is out of the barrel. Few men can hit consistently by holding ahead of a bird—holding the gun still at a point they consider correct. The slightest delay in pulling the trigger means a miss—a tenth of a second means six feet, in our hypothetical reasoning. A delay while
the gun is swinging, however, means nothing, because the muzzles are still keeping ahead of the flyer and so are aimed at about the right spot for shot load and birdie to intersect.
W hile many men learn early the necessity for the generous swing ahead and lead on the crossing duck, they fail to grasp the fact that the quail, apparently angling off so little that they can hit it by shooting right at it, is really moving fast either to the left or right. Therefore they shoot right at Brother Quail who is buzzing off to the left and forward, and the shot load hisses by the bird to the right. The aim was correct for the spot where the bird was—but not where he was when the shot got there.
Clay bird shooters have the same experience when they shoot right at the clay angling off from the straight line to the gun. To hit the angling bird, therefore,
the wise gunner puts the muzzle a foot or two to the left or right of the bird, as he may be angling from the straight
line. No swing is possible, because the distance from the straight line is slight. The soaring bird is another deceiver of the simple huntsman. No old duck shot needs to be told how much one has to hold over the duck which leaps from the reeds and darts almost vertically for the blue voids. I remember shooting about one box of shells at a covey of quail, broken up and lying just over the crest of a rocky ridge. The birds simply dropped down the ridge like stones, and most of the box of shells went while I wras thinking that I had to hold lower and lower below the dropping bird to make the shot charge intersect his flight. When I saw two or three feet of daylight ’twixt the muzzle of the gun and the bird above, then the bird usually quit flying and went tumbling down the slope.
All of this holding where the bird isn’t and all this swing prove necessary merely because of the relatively slow flight of shot, which has about the velocity of sound for a short distance, and then less as the range grows longer. If we could give shot the sustained velocity of our Government rifle, hitting with the shotgun would be a matter merely of holding correctly on the bird — and so “like shooting fish.”
As I have said, applying the mathematics of the case to the actual shooting is difficult, because of the unknown factors in the problem; but it is possible to get an approximation of the right distance ahead necessary for the various ranges, and so avoid the inclination to shoot behind the bird, which is the most common fault of the shotgun man.
The speed of birds is usually overestimated. British experiments with accurate time-measuring apparatus years ago showed that pheasants fly little more than thirty miles per hour in the open, while the buzzing partridge, like our own quail, flies less than this. The duck, down-wind, is the fastest thing our gunners have to shoot at, but it is doubtful
if they get up over 60 miles an hour despite all the yarns of the returned huntsman. The same general rules which are given for shooting birds on the wing also apply to rabbit hunting. The rabbit usually gives the hunter only the slightest glimpse of him in passing an open stretch of ground, so that some rapid calculations must be made in order to hit him at the next clearing.
A Simple Cold-Weather Ventilator for the Window Sill
FOR very cold days, when drafts would be objectionable, the simple ventilation device shown in the drawing will be
appreciated by everyone. Fit a board 1 in. thick, 13^ in. wide and 4 in. long by hinges to the stool of the window, rebating the top so that when the board is set vertically it will hold the lower sash of the window up. This permits the air to come in between the upper and lower sash without
draft, while the opening at the bottom is closed with the board. The bottom of this board, as will be seen, is also rebated to fit over the stool.
When the window is to be closed the board is pulled over into the fiat position on the window stool. The hinges should not be set flush into the stool and board, because extra play is needed for it to fall into position. The ventilation afforded between the two sashes is sufficient for ordinary purposes on cold and windy DAYS.-HAROLD V. WALSH.
Joining Pieces of Rubber by the Use of Heat and a Glass Rod
IN the chemical laboratory small pieces of tubing are often discarded because a satisfactory method of uniting them to form a larger piece is not known. With a glass rod which fits the tubing a very good joint can be made. The rod should first be wound around with paper and then inserted in the tubing. Before applying the tubing to the flame, powdered soapstone or talcum should be sifted through the tube to prevent the rubber from adhering to the rod or paper.
Using a Bugle to Transmit Telegraph Signals
ALMOST every person is familiar with A the idea of sending messages by the wigwag system of flags, but here is a code by which messages may be transmitted within the range of a bugle
sound by quarter and half notes. There is not anything difficult about the code and it can be learned almost as quickly as the bugle CALLS.-THOMAS MCHUGH.
A Waterproof Mounting for a Circular Piece of Glass
AVERY good method of securing a circular piece of glass in a metal frame, and at the same time making it waterproof, is shown in the illustration.
The circular piece of glass is shown at A, and at B is shown a rubber band stretched around the glass, dividing it evenly on both sides. At C the iron case
A rubber band stretched over the edge of the glass and pressed in the metal rim
in which glass is set is shown, and D shows the metal rim, screwed down by machine screws, which exerts a pressure on the rubber band, thereby securing and waterproofing the glass. The rubber band surpasses putty, felt, etc., in neatness and DURABILITY.-WALTER B. WEBER.