You can make countless shooting mistakes while hunting ducks and geese. Some are fairly innocent. Others, however, can cause friction in the blind or hamper your performance. Let’s look at some often-overlooked fails and how to fix them.
Shooting While Sitting When You Don’t Have To
Sometimes, you cannot avoid this, like when you’re hiding in a field blind or an open-water layout boat. But if you’re in a large boat or on land and can stand before shooting, there’s no reason to remain seated or kneeling. Doing so hinders your ability to position your feet correctly and swing your shotgun with the target. Still, some folks insist on staying seated, and they usually stop their gun on crossing targets or fall backward on overhead birds.
Don’t do it. Identify your target, position your feet, stand and mount your gun in one coordinated motion, and swing through your target — just like you would on the trap or skeet range. You’ll shoot better.
Check That Gun
We’ve all forgotten to reload after a frenzied volley. This mistake is more humorous than hurtful, but it can cost you birds. The fix is simple: Get in the habit of making sure your gun is fully reloaded after every shot. And don’t be afraid to double-check. You’d hate to hear the click of a firing pin on an empty chamber when the bird of your dreams is climbing out of the decoys.
Know Your Bird
Everyone has a buddy who pays no attention to group-shooting protocol and constantly takes the easiest or closest duck with no regard to other shooters. It doesn’t matter if he’s on the left and a bird decoys to the right — he’s shooting.
Don’t be that guy. If two birds decoy, take the one on your side. If you’re part of a large group, focus on ducks or geese on your end of the blind or firing line. Mistakes happen, of course, but you’ll consistently kill more birds and stay on good terms with your friends if you limit your zone of fire.
Your Pal’s Blocks
Decoys take pellets, especially when you’re hunting divers in windy conditions. Some damage is part of the cost of doing business, of course, and you can feel free to do what you like with your decoys. However, there’s no excuse for taking stupid or unnecessary shots at cripples slinking through your buddy’s prized blocks.
If possible, wait for a wounded bird to enter an open window, and then fire. Or, get out of the blind to find an angle where your finishing shots won’t strafe the fakes. Don’t let a bird get away, of course. Just use your head and be considerate of your friend’s investment.
Be Not Quick
Some hunters like to show off their quick-shooting skills, and they usually don’t wait for the pit boss to call the shot. They rise and fold birds before anyone else can react.
I’m not that fast. In fact, shooting too quickly often reduces my effectiveness. I hold no grudges against these quick-draw artists, but they need to rein themselves in. One or two snap-shots are OK. Consistently outgunning the rest of the blind is a great way to ensure that you hunt by yourself.
But Be Not Too Polite
On the flip side, some folks wait forever to shoot, assuming another hunter will be more anxious or that the hunt leader will give the go-ahead. There’s nothing wrong with good manners, but don’t let birds zip in and out of the decoys because you’re afraid of offending someone.
Easy cure: Talk with everyone before the hunt to make sure they understand when and during which circumstances to shoot. If the pit boss calls the shots, great. If it’s every man for himself — within reason — fair enough. Just don’t pass up shots and then stare at your mates in bewilderment afterward.
Be Not a Giver
All hunters know it’s uncool to be a claimer — someone who takes credit for every bird that folds after two or more folks shoot. But it’s equally bad to shoot at a bird, decide you don’t want it and then dump it on your buddy. Hey, someone has to take home the shovelers, OK? And remember, the law states that there’s no group bagging in waterfowl hunting.
If you and a friend fire at the same bird, try to determine who killed it. If your buddy thinks he did, great. If you believe you did and your pal agrees, wonderful. Just don’t foist that sawbill on a friend after you realize it wasn’t a canvasback.
You can probably think of many other annoying shooting habits or mistakes. Just try to avoid the obvious or stupid fails. And if you succumb to one now and then, laugh it off and do better the next time — right after you clean that spoonie your buddy swears you shot.
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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.