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Their Aim is True

By Mike Leggett
Austin American Statesman

Leon Measures didn't know he was developing a personal shooting curriculum for himself and other shotgunners.

All he know was that he was a kid and his BB gun didn't have a front sight on it. "I had to learn to shoot is by watching the BB fly through the air," Measures says. "I got to where I could hit things as small as a BB, and when I picked up a shotgun I found out I was awesome."

And that was the beginning of "Shoot Where You Look," the BB gun-based instruction course in which Measures teaches beginners the basics of shotgunning and polishes the shooting skills of advanced students. "It's not a science," he says. "But if you do certain things, the result is predictable. I can make a shotgunner out of you."

With dove season only days away, Measures is busy helping shooters around central Texas get ready for their time in the field. He has refined his technique and teaching methods and has been offering formal instruction since the mid-60's. Some people wonder how shooting a BB gun at a cardboard box from 6 feet translates to shooting a crossing dove in a sunflower field, but it works, and Measures manages to show them how.

"If you can focus, do the things it takes to hit a crossing tennis ball with a single BB at 20 feet, it's geometrically easier to hit a clay target at 25 yards," Measures says. The gun doesn't matter. The load doesn't matter. Only a repeatable process of mounting the gun and picking up a sight picture off the end of the barrel. Many shooters wonder why they have good days and bad during dove season. Why one moment they're knocking down everything that flies and ten minutes later might not be able to hit the ground. It's probably a result of one of three things, Measures says, and those three things are the greatest impediments to good shooting anywhere:

First is practice. "I see guys who haven't picked up a shotgun since last bird season," Measures says. "They aren't ready to shoot. You have to get mentally and physically ready to shoot." Practice is the only way to establish and enhance good shooting habits, he says. Mount, swinging and shooting the gun are three acts that should constitute a seamless process, but they only become on through good practice. Second is the swing itself, which is the most common problem in bad shooting. "people stop the gun," Measures says. "If you're going to stop the gun, you're going to miss. You'll be shooting where is was, not where it's going to be."

The third bad habit is shooting at birds that are too far away. We all know some hunters are notorious for this, but Measures says many dove hunters succumb to the lure of a bird that's just simply out of range. Keep the target inside 30 yards, and your percentages go up.

There is a fourth element of successful shooting that only comes with practice, Measures says: concentration. "You have to focus on a single bird," he says. "We've all had those times when we have fired up into a flock of doves two or three times and didn't focus." You have to focus on a single bird; on the beak of a single bird. When you do that, all the rest of them disappear. You'll get a full sack real quick that way." Some shooters have heard about eye dominance and its impact on shooting success, but Measures doesn't worry about things like that. His only concern is that the shotgun is mounted in the right place against the cheek so that the shooter doesn't have to lower his head to make contact with the stock. "You have to mount the gun the same way every time," Measures says, which is where practice comes in.

Finally, Measures offers one last suggestion for shooters getting ready for dove season. "Take your shotgun out and shoot at a cardboard target at 20-25 feet. Smoothbores are notorious for having their own little quirks in where they shoot, and you can't adjust for them unless you know where your shotgun shoots. "You have to put the load of shot where the target will be when the target gets there."

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