Official Montana Hunting Safety Course Link to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks

Hello, hunter! Montana's online hunting course has moved. Click here to go to the latest version of the Today's Hunter in Montana course—the official hunting safety course of Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.

The following course material is for reference only. Please go to the new course to complete your Montana certification.

Shotgun Shooting Skills

Shotgun marksmanship requires some special skills that are substantially different from those you use to shoot a rifle accurately. The differences are found in shooting position, mounting or holding the firearm, pointing, trigger control, and leading, and follow-through.

Shooting Position

The stance for shotgun shooting resembles that of a boxer in the ring–feet spread apart, body well balanced, arms and trunk free to swing to the right and the left of the target. Relax so that you are able to move smoothly. This position must be comfortable and natural to allow for quick movement in any direction.


  • When shooting, the body weight shifts to the leading leg (left leg if you shoot right-handed, right leg if you shoot left-handed).
  • The leading hand holds the shotgun fore-stock and points naturally to the target area. You don’t aim the shotgun so much as point it at your target.

Mounting the Shotgun

When you “mount the shotgun” you place it to your shoulder. To do this, first place the stock against your cheek, then put it against your shoulder. This ensures that the firearm is in exactly the same position each time you shoot. Do not raise the firearm to the shoulder first and then drop your head to rest your cheek against the stock. You will likely miss the target.

Pointing and Eyeing the Target

Aim a rifle Point a shotgun

Aim a rifle. Squeeze the trigger.

Point a shotgun. Pull the trigger.

Pointing. With the rifle you “aim” precisely. But with a shotgun you point at the target. Accurate shotgun shooting requires a fast sequence of movements involving the body, firearm, and eyes. These movements need to be performed in one smooth, coordinated movement to achieve accuracy, and this requires practice.

Eyeing the target. In shotgun shooting, keep both eyes wide open and focused on the moving target, not on the firearm barrel or the bead sight.

  • While watching the target, mount the firearm correctly, point it toward the target area, and pull the trigger.

Trigger Control

“Pulling the trigger' refers to the way you fire a shotgun. You do not fire a shotgun with slow, steady trigger pressure the way you do a rifle. Instead, the shotgun trigger is pulled. The trigger pull is similar to the action of striking a keyboard. Pull the trigger quickly, but not hard.

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Official hunting safety course for Montana hunters last modified: November 16, 2011
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