Leaders Create Good Hunts. Here's How the Best Ones Do It
Every group hunt at a pit, blind, boat, slough or timber hole needs a pit boss — a leader who guides the hunt from start to finish and makes tough decisions.
That can be difficult. After all, even seasoned veterans don’t have all the answers, and no one wants to come off as a know-it-all and offend people. Still, someone must be in charge, or a hunt can fall apart. Successful pit bosses share these qualities.
Experience and Planning Ability
Good hunt leaders have seen almost everything and know how to approach hunts at various places and during challenging conditions. Sometimes, that can be as simple as where to set up or when to hunt. Other days, it requires a meticulous approach. Bottom line: Veteran pit bosses can refer to many similar days afield and forge solid approaches based on experience.
Great bosses also keep open minds. Just because a strategy worked five years ago doesn’t mean it will work today. Leaders observe birds and analyze how they react. When geese seem to shy away from a seemingly solid hide, bosses tweak the cover and setup. If divers land short or flare, pit leaders change up the spread. Good bosses anticipate problems and act swiftly to eliminate them.
This might be the most important pit-boss skill with big groups. After all, in an eight-man field setup, you’ll usually have eight different ideas about when to shoot. That doesn’t work. Only one person — the boss — should call the shot. He must analyze the approach and behavior of birds, and then loudly and decisively declare when to shoot or hold fire. Further, he must recognize when birds only offer a shot to one or two hunters in a group — usually guys on the edges — and then instruct them to shoot. Most important, he has to remind hunters about their respective zones of fire and correct anyone who shoots out of turn.
Calling Skills and Decoy Knowledge
This goes hand in hand with experience and planning ability. The hunt leader should dictate the spread and guide the calling. That doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be open to ideas or suggestions, or that other folks can’t call. In fact, it’s often best if multiple callers join in. However, the boss must lead by saying when and how to call, and by forming an overall vision of the decoy layout.
Not everyone is cut out to be a great pit boss. It takes many special qualities, a willingness to watch and listen, and the guts and tact to lead in a way that lets everyone enjoy the hunt. In addition, experienced hunt leaders know that even their best attempts sometimes fail, and they can roll with it. If nothing else, they think about safety first, enjoyment second and birds last. And when it comes together, a hunt guided by a solid pit boss can be a wonderful thing.
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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.