Defining Duck Hunting's Critical Intangibles

By author of The Duck Blog

Some Waterfowlers Possess That Extra Edge

A few waterfowl hunters have great powers of foresight and perception that give them a big boost in the marsh. Photo © Bill Konway

Some folks just have it. That holds true when discussing golf, public speaking or even duck hunting. A few people are just naturally talented and ultra-intuitive at specific activities.

A football coach might describe those attributes as intangibles when discussing a remarkable player. You know, the guy who isn’t the fastest or strongest on the team, yet he’s always around the ball and never makes mental mistakes. Some waterfowlers exhibit similar characteristics. Maybe they don’t win their summer skeet league or have a stable full of flocked decoys, yet they consistently outshoot their more talented, more fortunate compatriots. They possess duck hunting’s intangibles. Let’s look at some of those desirable skills.

Knowing When

Many hunters wait too long to rise and shoot at passing birds. Others get anxious and shoot prematurely. Some hawkeyes seem to identify optimal shot opportunities seconds before they occur and always put themselves in sure-kill position.

Maybe they subconsciously gauge a target’s speed and angle of travel, or perhaps they just possess great reflexes. Either way, these folks typically call the shot perfectly in situations when you might struggle.

Trouble-Shooting

Hard-earned experience lets many hunters identify potential problems and correct them before they spoil a hunt. Some sharpies pick this up immediately. No matter their experience level, they notice bird behavior, instantly find the cause and promptly determine a fix. That might mean changing locations, tweaking a spread, finding better cover or adjusting your calling. Whatever the problem, you’d be wise to listen to the solutions these hunters suggest.

Knowing Where

This intangible is directly linked to the first two. Some savvy hunters can immediately identify the best setup spots and put themselves in great position. Again, experience provides this skill through time, but a few keen newbies can watch birds work a lake or field and pinpoint the X. I guess they just alertly observe how ducks and geese travel and react in various conditions.

Vision

I’ll avoid dropping the corporate buzz-phrase “10,000-foot view.” However, some guys have a real-world equivalent of this. They can envision what a decoy spread looks like to an airborne bird, not a ground-bound hunter. The difference in perspectives is amazing. You might think your field goose setup looks textbook perfect, but your astute buddy quickly recognizes that your kill hole is too small, dissuading birds from finishing. That bird’s-eye vision pays huge benefits.

Why Not?

Most folks follow conventional wisdom or hunt only as long as it’s enjoyable, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Still, a few possess a curious mind, willing attitude and understated toughness that leads to constant experimentation, prolonged determined effort and the simple desire to ask, “What if?” You’ve probably guessed that those guys are typically elbow-deep in feathers at the duck-cleaning station. Fresh approaches and incessant effort lead to full straps — period.

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