SI Vault
E.M. Swift
November 02, 1987
Ben Upson looks a little like Fess Parker. If you're old enough to know how to drive a standard transmission car, you probably also remember that Parker was the actor who played Davy Crockett, who was a pretty fair shot himself. This Crockett look-alike was telling us: "In this country we go to golf pros and tennis pros, but when it comes to shooting, everybody's Dan'l Boone. They're going to learn to do it by themselves. Ninety percent of them are doing something wrong."
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November 02, 1987

A School That Shoots Down Old Theories

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The shooting technique that Orvis teaches stresses certain fundamentals. The shooter's stance should be narrow, the better to pivot from. If you are a righthanded shooter, your left arm should be nearly straight, extended as far along the forearm of the gun as one can comfortably extend it. The left is your "killing hand," as the instructors call it, the hand that points the gun. All the right hand—the dominant one—should do is pull the trigger. The eyes should be on the bird, not the gun barrel, and the gun should be mounted in two movements. First, to the armpit; next, to the shoulder, with the stock pressed firmly to the cheek. Bang!

If it had been a two-day course, I would have left a dispirited wreck. It was as if my golf swing had been taken apart—not a bad idea, that—and reassembled minus a piece. I was worse than when I had started.

But something clicked on the third morning. Something seemed to click in all the students the third morning, some of whom had never before fired a shotgun. The little light bulb went on for me when Reed pointed out that when the shotgun was in its "ready" position—cradled in my armpit—the barrel should be in my line of vision and I should already be pivoting with the bird. Now reach for it with the left hand. Bang! Now reach for it. Bang! I was firing the gun the instant it hit my shoulder, because the swing had already begun. It worked. I was so surprised by the frequency of my hits that I was tempted to laugh.

I can't wait to try it in the field, when a grouse explodes beside me and my pulse jumps from 68 beats per minute to 140 and a quart of adrenaline floods my brain. Now reach for it. Bang! Now reach for it. Bang! See the lovely grouse fly to freedom. Feel the blackberry thorns in your thigh. Ah, the hunt.

But I'll tell you one thing: There was one morning late in summer when I couldn't miss.

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