Red-dot reflex sights are widely popular amongst turkey and slug gun deer hunters for good reason—they can increase your accuracy with a shotgun to ensure you don’t miss when a shot presents itself. If a red-dot has been sighted in properly prior to the hunt, all you need to do is put that ball of fire on a turkey’s waddles or deer’s vitals and pull the trigger. But red-dots are beneficial for other hunting pursuits as well.
Some of my duck hunting buddies who guide started affixing reflex optics to their 12 gauges a few years ago, specifically to shoot only banded birds or hybrids while they took clients afield. The reason? They didn’t want to miss. If a unique shooting opportunity presents itself, you want to be on target. After seeing a few of these setups, I decided to use the platform myself and have found that an optic is valuable for wingshooters in certain situations.
Mounting a red dot to your shotgun and taking it afield will not automatically make you a better shooter. You need to pattern your shotgun while looking through the optic to make sure the impact point is correct. You can adjust the optic for windage and elevation just like a riflescope. I’ve used the Vortex Venom and Holosun 510 series, but most any reflex sight will do the job. You just want to find one that has a wide field of view, because locating a moving target in the optic’s window is much more difficult than taking aim at a stationary gobbler or whitetail.
To practice, I go to the skeet range and also shoot five-stand. On skeet, start out by mounting the gun at station 1 and calling for the bird, put the red-dot on it, and pull the trigger. Make your way around the field to get a feel for swinging on the clays. Then shoot some low-gun rounds of skeet as this will emulate what it’s like to shoot from a blind. Five-stand will give you more clay bird presentations to hone your skills with the optic. Don’t worry if you’re not breaking every clay. If you shoot even 50% that’s good enough for the environments and species you’ll be hunting in with a reflex.
In addition to looking for banded birds and hybrids, a few of my guide friends use a reflex optic for killing cripples on the water. This allows them to put the red dot on the bird, and finish it quickly. Big water diver hunters and sea duck hunters will find a red-dot invaluable as these species will often dive under the water and pop back up briefly if they are wounded. A red-dot will also save ammunition. Instead of expending multiple shotshells to kill a bird, you can take aim and shoot once.
A 12-pound Canada goose looks like it’s flying slow compared to a mallard, but these birds can move; they are capable of flying in excess of 50 mph, faster on a tailwind. And while a honker will not be speeding over your decoy spread, it is moving faster than you think. A red-dot ensures you stay on the bird and kill it.
The most common mistake hunters make on big geese is slowing down or outright stopping the swing of their shotgun. This often happens during field hunts where puddle ducks and honkers are both present. The first flocks are likely to be ducks as they tend to move earlier in the morning. You get used to shooting smaller, speedier greenheads, pintails, and wigeon. Then the geese show up and it appears they are in slow motion. It can be a difficult shooting adjustment to make. An optic will make the transition from ducks to geese much easier.
The spring snow goose conservation order is one of the few times hunters will shoot into large flocks of birds all season. When hundreds of geese are in shooting range, it can be difficult for hunters of any experience level to focus on shooting one bird. Add in the fact that you are allowed to affix an extension magazine to your shotgun, which increases ammo capacity, and many hunters choose to simply pull the trigger as fast as they can. That’s not an ethical decision because it can cripple birds that will never be recovered. It’s also not an effective way to kill geese.
With a red-dot, you can zero in on one bird, kill it, and then move on to the next. It’s a much more efficient way to kill snows than sending a wall of steel shot at a flock and hoping for the best. It also allows you to connect on longer shots, particularly when geese are straight above the blind with their vitals exposed.
You might think that an optic is a hindrance in flooded timber since mallards are working in so close, but a lot of hunters that have never shot in this environment miss. That’s no fun when you’re on the hunt of a lifetime. Greenheads are dropping straight down from the tree tops, so it’s a much different aim point than most are used to. You need to insert your barrel below the duck in order to kill it. With a reflex, you just need to get that red-dot on the bird.
It can be difficult to find ducks in your shooting window at first because of the tight quarters mallards are landing in. One way to practice is to hang a tennis ball from the ceiling of your garage (you may already have done this so you know when to stop pulling your truck forward). Stand in your driveway, point the red-dot at the top of the string, and follow it down to the tennis ball. It won’t be the same as a real hunt, but you will create the muscle memory needed to connect on the shot when the first greenhead flutters into the decoys.