The Quick and the Dead

The Quick and the Dead

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Cameron, Philip

With the arrival of fall here in Montana, many people love to get out and do some upland bird hunting. Hopefully you've been honing your skills with practice at the trap range already. After all, shooting accurately takes good hand-to-eye coordination in general, and when a bird zooms off the ground, you have mere seconds to see the bird, raise your shotgun, aim, and fire. Any experienced hunter can tell you that it sounds easier than it is.

Hand-to-eye coordination is primarily controlled by proprioception—your body’s perception of where it is in space in order to have a sense of balance. Your feet have a lot to do with this; they keep you connected with the world by constantly sending signals to your brain to keep you balanced and upright. Many people have lazy feet because they walk on flat surfaces all day and don’t use their little foot muscles. When they go out into the field, the soft and uneven ground sends different signals to the brain, causing balance and coordination problems. Luckily, some easy exercises will drastically increase your accuracy and hand-eye coordination.

Get Loose
First, massage the bottoms of your feet with an old golf ball to loosen up the tight fascia and get those foot joints moving. Go gently at first; if your fascia is tight, it will take a few days to loosen up. You should only massage to your tolerance and never to the point of pain. Massage each foot for five minutes a day. Put the ball in an old tube sock to keep it from rolling under the couch (also a great dog toy).

Weeble Wobble
Then work on your balance. Start by making sure you can balance on one foot. Try doing that for ten seconds with your eyes open, and then do it for ten seconds with your eyes closed. As that becomes easier, progress to balancing on a wobble board. Buy one or make one easily out of an old broom handle and a piece of scrap wood. This will teach your body how to catch itself when it's off balance.

Now train your eyes and hands to work together. Juggling is a great way to improve this skill. Beanbags or tennis balls are fine; flaming torches and knives are great for effect but not necessary (plus you'll need hands later to hold the rifle). Putting all of your skills together is the last piece of the training. Doing some juggling or playing catch while trying to balance is a fun effective way to really hone your hand-to-eye coordination skills, and they will transfer to the field and improve your shooting timing and accuracy.

Philip Cameron is a chiropractor at the Bozeman Wellness Center.

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