Planning for the shot before you even shoulder the gun will help you hit more ducks
Ducks have a knack for bringing out the shooting mistakes in all of us. Sometimes I think I even invent a few new shooting mistakes each season. But the worst gaffes seem to happen before even picking up the gun and pulling it to your shoulder. These mess-ups sting a little more because they're so easily preventable. Before you hit the marsh this fall, learn to recognize and avoid these pre-opportunity blunders.
Don't Dress for Failure
Puffy parkas or tight, restrictive clothing can affect your ability to mount and swing a shotgun. Solution: Choose outer garments that allow a full range of motion, and practice shouldering and pointing your gun while wearing hunting gear.
Don't Bang Into the Blind
Nothing’s more frustrating than reaching for your gun as birds decoy only to smack your head on the blind ceiling or catch your sling on a gun rack or blind bag. Solution: After you’re set up, make sure you can easily access your shotgun and then stand and shoot without obstruction.
Keep Your Feet Neat
Clay-target shooters harp on the importance of foot placement, so why do duck hunters often ignore it? Solution: Anticipate where birds will offer the best shot opportunities, and place your feet correctly. Righties should point their left foot where they want to kill the bird. Further, shift your feet a bit left or right before the shot if ducks work the edges of your spread.
Don't Get Complacent
Wing-shooting is a perishable skill. Some guys don’t need much practice, but most of us benefit greatly from polishing our chops through extensive off-season repetition. Solution: Shoot a lot. Then shoot more.
Don't Psyche Yourself Out
Now and then, hunters submit to failure before giving their best effort on a tough bird. Springing greenwings or crossing bluebills traveling at Mach 2 are difficult but not impossible. Solution: Be confident, and take your best shot. Bore a hole in the target with your eyes, swing aggressively, slap the trigger and follow through in one fluid motion. And if you miss, laugh it off.
Sneaky or quiet ducks can catch you napping. And you might make matters worse by daydreaming or goofing around. Solution: Anticipate split-second snap shots, and be ready. And get off your darn phone.
Don't Get Cocky
Conversely and ironically, you can sometimes be too ready to shoot a duck. This often occurs when you watch a bird or flock approach from a long distance, lulling you into a false sense of confidence. Then, you often slow your swing or “float the bird” instead of reacting quickly and confidently. Solution: Treat every target the same. See, swing, slap and follow through.
Ignore Bad Advice
Blind mates can give bad advice, urging you to take high birds or iffy shots when you know better. Or they might call shots poorly, letting the ideal moment pass before crying “take ’em” as the flock gains altitude. Solution: Listen to your inner voice. Only you can decide when to shoot or pass. And if the pit boss sucks at calling shots, form your own crew with like-minded hunters, and take birds with their feet down and wings back.
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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.