Peeking is something we avoided doing when we were young and playing ‘Hide and seek.’
We learned to not peek at the answers when we were taking tests in school or to not peek at the answers that others were writing on their tests.
Peeking was a way of cheating, we wanted to be fair and we avoided it.
“What’s all this have to do with shooting?” you ask. We, as shooters, must also avoid ‘peeking’ if we want our scores to meet our expectations. Peeking is where we look somewhere other than where we should be looking during the execution of a shot.
In shotgun shooting, it’s where we lose sight of the target. Many times it’s because our barrels are in the way of seeing the target clearly, so we pick our heads up while still maintaining some contact with the stock (called ‘cheeking’) or taking our heads off the stock entirely in order to see the target. In doing so, we significantly lower our chances of hitting that target.
I tell students that they need to be looking in the same place the ‘shotgun is looking.’ We have to be aligned with–but not looking at–the shotgun.
Usually we feel we have to pick our heads up off the stock (peek) because we started at our hold point with the barrel too high, which allowed the target to disappear behind the barrel, causing us to lose sight of it. Other times we pick our head up so as to see the great shot we thought we’d made. Many times it’s because our gun either doesn’t fit us or we’ve mounted it incorrectly.
Seeing the target is arguably the most important part of shooting; you can’t hit it if you don’t see it.
There are ways to avoid ‘peeking.’ The first and easiest way is to start with a lower gun at your hold point as you call for the target so you can clearly see the target. Another way, if the target drops below your barrel, is to lower the barrel while continuing to keep your head in full contact with the stock. That way you’re still ‘looking’ in the same place the shotgun is. This is an especially good method to use if you’re shooting in windy conditions.
If gun fit or gun mount is your problem, you need to seek professional help in order to identify the problem and a possible resolution for that problem. Gun mount, gun fit and stance are related; you can’t fix one of them without affecting the others.
This, again, is where a Certified Instructor can and will help guide you.
Barry Hartmann is an NSSA Master Level and NRA Certified shotgun instructor who can help you improve your skills at American Skeet and wingshooting. To contact Barry, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or give him a call at (918)803-2393.