How to Miss a Decoying Duck

By author of The Duck Blog

That's a dead greenhead ... probably. Don't get complacent and whiff. Photo © Steve Oehlenschlager/Shutterstock

Hanging over the decoys in perfect range, a cupped, committed duck or goose is probably the easiest target in waterfowl hunting.

So why do we miss those gimme shots so often?

Various factors combine to turn ideal decoying shots into embarrassing whiffs or panicked follow-up volleys. Let’s examine how cake opportunities end in chagrin.

Shooting Too Soon

When birds pull their wings back and extend their feet, folks often get excited and rush the shot. So, instead of firing at a target that’s hovering over the blocks in easy range, you shoot at a descending bird at longer distance.

Easy fix: Let them commit. You set a kill hole in your decoys for a reason. Allow birds to work to it. If they flare before reaching it, no worries. You can still take them as they gain altitude or put on the brakes.

Just don’t let birds commit to the point that leads to the next mistake.

Waiting Too Long

On the flip side, it’s easy to get so enamored with a committed duck or goose that you let them eat you up. That is, you allow the bird to get extremely close and then miss because your pattern is the size of a golf ball.

Easy fix: Yes, let them work your decoys, but call the shot before birds get closer than 15 or 20 yards. They’ll still be within easy range, and your pattern will open up nicely.

No Practice

Decoying shots seem so simple that we don’t pay much attention to them during off-season shooting practice. Instead, we focus on hard crossers, high overhead shots or tricky quartering angles that often drive us mad. That’s a mistake.

Easy fix: Frequent a sporting clays course that offers a station that represents decoying waterfowl. You want incoming clays that lose altitude as they approach. Focus especially hard on proper form and concentration when shooting those targets. That practice will pay big dividends in the blind.

Overconfidence, Complacence

This is the No. 1 reason we miss decoying shots. They’re so easy that we let our guard down, ignore good shooting form and don’t mount and swing our gun aggressively.

Easy fix: Treat decoying birds like any other target. Position your feet properly for the shot, mount your gun in a smooth motion, keep your cheek welded to that stock and swing through your target. Bam. Dead duck or goose.

Get On ’Em

Focus intensely on decoying birds this season. Your shooting percentage will increase, and your shell budget will drop. Oh, and when you miss a gimme shot — and it will happen — laugh it off and focus harder on the next chance. It’ll be a good reminder about the many reasons we sometimes bungle the easiest opportunities.

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