You won’t remember every duck you shoot. You might, however, recall with regret every time you whiff at an easy target.
That’s understandable. You practice hard during the off-season and make good on most opportunities, so it hurts when an easy one slips past. “How could I have missed?” you might say.
Actually, it’s simple, and I’ve identified several common causes of “easy-whiff-itis.”
Out of Position
Often, we’re simply in poor position to fire when a duck or goose offers a quality shot. Maybe your feet aren’t positioned properly or your body is jammed uncomfortably in a field blind. Whatever the reason, you can often avoid this trap. As birds approach, make sure you’re prepared to rise, shoulder your gun smoothly and take the bird at the best opportunity. This only requires a second of thought and makes you a better shot.
Sometimes, we miss because we don’t consider the situation. Often, that means we mistakenly assume birds will offer a specific type of shot but then do the opposite. For example, you cannot expect feet-down, wings-back decoying shots at opening-day woodies and teal. Conversely, you don’t need to start blazing at bluebills or geese on the deck when they’ll likely set up nicely over your kill hole.
Always consider the circumstances, and be ready to take whatever ducks and geese offer.
Ever snag your gun on something in the blind or blow up a wad of cattails 5 yards off your muzzle? Been there. Before the action starts, make sure you can access and shoulder your gun without obstruction. Further, ensure your zone of fire is clear of pattern-busting vegetation or trees.
Not So Fast
Excitement sometimes trumps common sense, and we rush shots. Speed is great when you must snap-shoot a split-second chance, but most shots allow more time than you realize. Gauge when birds will offer the best opportunity, and then let your body react naturally: Rise, shoulder, swing, shoot.
But Not Slow, Either
On the flip side, it’s easy to take too much time with some chances, like when geese seemingly hang over the decoys or you watch a canvasback approach for a quarter-mile. Don’t be complacent. Track and shoot every target in the same manner, with smooth, decisive precision.
Now and then, we take ourselves out of the game before the shot. Maybe we’re convinced we’ll never hit a fast-moving crosser. Perhaps doubt creeps in when we swing on a high mallard. Those mind games create misses.
Don’t think. Just shoot. See the target, and react instinctively, letting your natural hand-eye coordination do the work. Fall back on muscle memory built from practice and experience. You’ll be surprised.
Admittedly, we’ll all miss an easy shot or two (or more) this season. Laugh them off, remain confident and get the next bird. Then, those embarrassing whiffs will become funny stories and distant memories.
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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.