These 'Easy' Opportunities Might Leave You Red-Faced
You might remember a Nov. 17, 2017 blog in which I discussed six “sneakers” — waterfowling shots that can trick you into a three-gun salute that punches holes in the air around birds.
Admittedly, some days, I can turn any shot into an adventure. However, some shot opportunities consistently prove to be trickier than others. While watching birds fly this spring, I thought of three more sneaky shots that might leave you steamed and your blind mates in stitches.
Nothing beats the sight of honkers or fat mallards seemingly floating on air over your decoys as they battle a stiff wind on approach. It’s like they’re standing still. They’re not.
Even going against a good breeze, flying waterfowl are always in motion. Often, that motion is a seemingly imperceptible vertical or horizontal shift, and those can fool you. And if you miss your first shot when it’s windy, the second and third opportunities will be much more difficult.
Easy solution: Never relax. Bore a hole with your eyes in that target, and follow through like you’re on Station 4 in skeet. The bird is moving. Your gun should be, too.
Low to the Water, Going Away
You often see this shot after a volley on a group of divers, when the survivors beat wings to escape. It should be so easy; a straightaway bird that doesn’t shift left or right. But when shooting from a shore blind, those birds might actually be somewhat lower than you, so your sight picture can be skewed. I’ve seen many folks miss — I have, too — when they don’t follow through sufficiently and try to shoot fleeing divers as they would a flushing woodie. The result? A nice pattern on the water behind the duck.
Finishing off crippled divers in choppy water can be tricky. I’ve expended many rounds on whitecaps while trying to swat buffleheads.
First, you’re shooting at a small target: the bird’s head. Pounding a wounded bird’s back and wings doesn’t help unless you’re at close range. Second, rough surf or surging rollers make your target rise and fall several inches or even feet in seconds. Third, wounded divers have a nasty trait of swimming swiftly and, well, diving. That combines to make for tough shots.
Focus on the bird’s head. I usually aim under the bill, hoping any pellets that deflect off the water will find their way home. Also, try to time your shot so the duck is atop a wave, not between them. In addition, pay extremely close attention to how the bird is diving, and try to time your shot for the instant it resurfaces. This means you must have your gun mounted and ready to fire while watching for any sign of the duck.
Never Miss? Nope
It’s foolish to think that you won’t get fooled here and there by tricky flying birds this season. It happens, and you’re human. Plus, wing-shooting swift fowl is inherently difficult. That’s part of the challenge. Just remember these and other “sneakers” while afield. You might not get them all, but you can avoid a few blunders. Plus, you’ll have your excuses ready for when the inevitable happens.
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Realtree waterfowl editor Brian Lovett has been an obsessive duck and goose hunter for more than 30 years, chasing his passion on the Dakota prairies and the marshes and open water of his home state of Wisconsin. He's been a writer and editor in the outdoors industry since 1991.