I would never profess to be an expert on the subject of shooting. When it comes to my shotgun I am firmly planted in the novice category.
Luckily for me I hit more than I miss. That’s not due to any sort of formal training I have just shot a heck of a lot of shells since picking up a shotgun for the first time.
I have always been pretty athletic and fortunately I was blessed with good hand / eye coordination. Couple that with the fact that I love to shoot (proven often by the amount of time and money I spend at the local sporting clays course) and you’ll gather that I am painfully aware of my capabilities or lack thereof.
I mention this, and write this article, in response to a recent hunting trip. My partner on this particular day was a very solid and experienced waterfowler. He is used to hunting big water, hunting with the aid of a boat and stretching out his shots just a little bit longer than I am.
During the course of our hunt we had four black ducks that wanted in our decoys. We had been hunting this spot for the last couple Saturdays and had discovered that the local birds had a real issue with commitment. They would give us a look, circle the decoys once maybe twice, and then hightail it on out of there.
On pass number two he called the shot and unloaded on them. I sat there stunned, “deer in the headlights” paralyzed and watched him take his shots.
“Thanks for backing me up” he said sarcastically.
“Yep my pleasure…” I snarled back.
I didn’t put up much of a fight since he was probably right. I could have taken a shot or two, but I hadn’t even switched the safety off. Those birds were just a little bit too far out there for my level of comfort and my ability to kill them cleanly. The shot also required me to encroach on his “shooting lane”. Not a whole lot, but enough that I didn’t feel good about doing it.
Don’t get me wrong…this was in no way an unethical shot distance. This was a very makeable shot for some people, but quite honestly I’m not one of those people. I like them feet down and fully committed. My buddy is okay with shooting birds that have made the mistake of strafing the decoys a little too close and he regularly makes those shots successfully.
At this point it was obvious that our thought processes were different. Neither one being right nor wrong, they were just different.
As we sat there discussing it I explained my point of view and he explained his…
I cut my teeth hunting from the banks of the Susquehanna River which can be a little hairy. At that time I didn’t own a boat and I had a Chesapeake Bay Retriever that I wasn’t willing to risk killing in order to retrieve a duck.
I would put my decoys out the way that I wanted them and then I’d shimmy out with one last decoy and place it right about at the point where my waders were starting to take on water. This was my self-imposed limit. If the bird was going to fall outside of that decoy, well then I just didn’t need to shoot it.
My buddy had spent a lot of time hunting the Outer Banks. He’s used to big water and had the advantage of owning a boat for chasing down crippled birds. He also roughly doubles me up in terms of hunting experience, patterning his shotgun and getting out to the range.
To say that either of us was correct or to say that either one of us is a better shot isn’t exactly the right argument in this circumstance. Instead I’d say that our past experiences had molded our thought processes and we each visualized a “good” shot a little bit differently. At the end of the day I believe that we both walked away with a better understanding of each other and our hunting partnership was strengthened for future hunts.
I am guessing that a lot of the people that happen to be reading this article are men? Well fellas the simple truth is we aren’t very good at having conversations. However, if you are going to have a group of hunters in a blind together there are a couple things that you should probably discuss prior to the start of every hunt.
- Safety – You don’t need a safety lecture, but if there is more than one hunter in the blind you should have a quick safety discussion. You want to make sure that everyone is on the same page. It’s a lot easier to have a conversation than it is to schedule an emergency airlift.
- Who’s in charge – My thought has always been whoever set up the hunt gets to call the shots.
- Shooting lanes – A brief “I’ll cover from here to here” will definitely help to save your eardrums.
- Timeline – Establishing a timeline helps set expectations. Obviously if you are having an awesome day you can adjust the timeline, but when you establish a timeline up front nobody is stuck looking at their watch wondering just how long you’ll be enjoying that “blue bird” day.
Hunting and being outdoors is one of my favorite ways to spend a day. My guess is that if you found this article then you probably feel the same way?
Taking just a little time to make sure that everyone in your group is on the same page helps keep the entire group safe and prevents bruised egos. If you’ve found someone (or a group) that you enjoy hunting with then taking a couple minutes to make sure that you’re all in agreement ahead of time makes perfect sense.