Balog on Public Draw Hunts and Sky-Busting

By Joe Balog writes The Duck Blog with Joe Balog

The object of duck hunting should be to lure the birds in close, not pass-shoot them as they fly overhead. I’m fortunate to live in area that's blessed with great duck hunting and fishing, but not “off the grid” as far as urbanization is concerned. I can shoot ducks in the morning and hit Starbucks that evening with the wife at the mall, while she stops in Nordstrom, all without burning a whole lot of gas in the truck. But, with such close proximity to a major urban area, the draw-style hunt I frequent occasionally brings out some real clowns. And I don’t mean the guys who dress up for the draw on October 31. 

I decided to hit the state hunt this weekend, something I don’t make a habit of since it’s often crowded on weekend days that offer “ducky” weather. But, being early in the season, and with low water levels at other locales, I gave it a go. I decided to bypass the flooded corn hunting zones, as these are quite close together, and a little artificial for my tastes. So, out to the marsh I went. Birds were in the air by the time the last decoy was tossed. Most were flying high.

Time after time, I watched the parade of birds fly out of the local refuge, fly over my area at 60 yards or so, and right over the corn zones. And the parties in those zones, the “clowns” I mentioned earlier, shot at them. About one in five ducks went sailing down, undoubtedly several hundred yards from the gunman. Most of those guys hunted without the aid of dogs to track cripples. But nearly all the parties continued to shoot.

Following the evening hunt, game is checked at the DNR check station. Upon arrival, I heard the stories: guys were “crushing them at 50 yards." Men with pumped-out chests were carrying lanyards full of birds, but it was a lesson in pass shooting. I don't care to partake in that.

I really thought it would be later it he season by the time I got irritated enough to write this blog, but I knew it would come. Another case in point: I’m at the local duck hunter’s hangout the other day, a hardware store that carries a bunch of duck gear, and the clerk there is recommending shells to a customer. His sales pitch: “get those, man. They’ll kill ducks at 60 yards all day…dead!”

Really? Sixty yards?

I think, rather than looking for guns and choke tubes and ammo that'll let us kill ducks from farther and farther away, we should focus on getting closer to our birds. That's what being a good waterfowler is all about. Otherwise, you're just pass-shooting. Or, more often, sky-busting.