Many hunters, multiple birds can create target confusion
A flock of ducks descends on your decoys, floating in easy range and almost begging for the signal to shoot. But at the call, you don’t rise confidently and pick out the most logical target, worried instead about which bird your buddies will shoot.
It happens season after season. Several birds and multiple shooters combine to create confusion and possibly lost opportunity. Sometimes, your buddy crosses you up, leaving you scrambling to find a poor shot at a fleeing duck. Other days, you and your partners shoot the same bird, and the others climb to safety.
Let’s review some common-sense ways to avoid cross-ups this fall.
Multiple Shooters, One Bird
Easy. Someone must get aggressive and shoot the duck or at least tell someone else to. Just don’t be polite. The pit boss should call the shot with plenty of time to spare so there’s no confusion.
Two Gunners, Two Birds
Again, easy. Each hunter should instinctively take the bird on his side. Just beware of the old last-minute switch-a-roo, when the duck that’s been coming toward you suddenly crosses with the other, changing your target. Bluebills are notorious for this.
Exception: If both birds are clearly closer to one hunter and outside the other’s zone of fire, the farther hunter should hold off. Just hope that the lucky hunter doubles.
Two Gunners, Big Flock
Things get tricky here, but they don’t need to. Really, this scenario calls for the same protocol in the two-gunners, two-birds situation. Take the birds that are clearly on your side, and respect your zone of fire. Trouble often arises when the “candy duck” — the bird that commits sooner and more wholeheartedly than other ducks — hovers inches above the water. Don’t be tempted if the candy duck isn’t on your side. Focus instead on the ducks that are, and leave the easy shot to your buddy.
Large Group of Hunters, Big Flock
We should cherish such problems, right? Still, these situations create problems. Obviously, as with the other scenarios, it’s best to take the birds directly in front of you, in your 10-and-2 zone of fire. Trouble is, when big flocks come at you, most of the hunters think the birds are directly in front of them, so you often end up with two crushed ducks, one that’s shot as it claws for altitude and plenty of missed chances.
You can only control your shots. Take the birds that represent logical targets, and don’t worry about your buddies. If some ducks provide easy shots, consider leaving those to your friends and targeting birds that are hanging farther back (but still in range, of course). And if you inevitably shoot the same duck as your pal, hand the bird to him, slap him on the back and resume hunting. Such deals usually even out in time.
Large Group, No Ducks
Not much to decide here. The only questions are when to quit and who’s going to buy breakfast. Hint: I’d nominate the guy to whom you gave the double-shot bird during your last hunt.
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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.