Zeroing Hurts Short-Term but Helps in the Long Run
Hunting results vary based on myriad factors, but sometimes, we fail in epic fashion and end the day without any ducks or geese.
The schneid. The collar. Zeroed. An SS — same shells — day (which is when you load three shells before shooting hours and then remove those unfired loads hours later. The most common term, of course, is getting skunked. How it occurs — poor shooting, tough circumstances, stale birds or a lousy setup — really doesn’t matter. Getting skunked stinks.
Or does it?
Sometimes, when I look back on skunks I’ve taken through the years —and I’ll admit to more than a few — I realize they were just another step along the path to success. That’s not just optimistic thinking, either. Taken in perspective, skunkings look like purposeful footprints along a season’s long journey.
I’ve been skunked opening day, which was embarrassing but made me realize how desperately I needed to scout new areas. I’ve zeroed during days when I saw thousands of birds, but those fruitless hunts basically served as scouting missions for future attempts. And I’ve walked out of the marsh birdless several times on the season’s final day, yet those whiffs usually occurred because I had nothing to lose and was trying something radical, scoping out a new spot or swinging for the fences.
Taking a skunk here and there won’t ruin your season or place a blemish on your record. The important consideration is how you deal with a failed hunt and bounce back. I consider it similar to a tournament bass angler discovering and then eliminating unproductive water. He might not catch any fish, but he’s narrowed his search considerably. The same applies with waterfowling. Obviously, if you whiff horribly at a previous hotspot one day, you shouldn’t consider hunting it the next. Or, if you failed because of bad circumstances or competition, you’ve simply learned when and when not to try that area.
Through time, the pain of those little zeroes in your hunting journal will fade, and you might even smirk when you look at the crooked numbers that follow. Yeah, you might have stumbled, but you learned from it, adapted your strategies or location, and, most important, kept hunting.
Years ago, a mentor gave me some great advice about getting skunked: “If you’re afraid of not getting any ducks, don’t walk out the door in the morning.”
True. Getting skunked hurts, but leaving your club gate locked or keeping your boat in the driveway is far worse.
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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.