It’s that time of the Year- Duck Shooting

Duck shooting season has been cancelled for the second consecutive year.10 Shooting Tips for Waterfowl

Making a good shot is one of the great joys in waterfowl hunting. Indeed, shooting is the pinnacle of this sport. Everything else – scouting, building blinds, setting decoys, calling, everything – is a lead-up to that moment when you shoulder your gun and fire. Making a clean kill gives you an immediate sense of pride in a job well done.

So, how do you become a good shot? How can you convert misses into hits? What  can you do to improve your accuracy and hold your own with more seasoned  shooters in the blind or pit?

Good shooting is a mix of coordination, concentration and confidence. Good  shooting is more instinctive than mechanical. It’s a skill that is honed through  adept coaching and lots of practice, similar to other athletic endeavours.

Here’s a list of 10 tips for becoming a better shot on ducks and geese. Put  these suggestions into practice, and you’ll shoot better and enjoy your hunting  more.

Tip No. 1: Make sure your shotgun fits.
A shotgun should flow naturally and smoothly to the shoulder, cheek to stock and master eye looking straight down the barrel. When a shotgun fits, the transition to this shooting position is second nature. The barrel automatically becomes an extension of the shooter’s line of sight.

Take your shotgun to a gunsmith, and let him check its fit against your  physique. If it’s a misfit, he can make stock adjustments, so it will rise and  point naturally.

Tip No. 2: Practice shooting in the pre-season.
Too many duck and goose hunters leave their shotguns in their gun safes until opening day. Then they wonder why they can’t hit anything. The easy answer is, they’re out of sync.

This problem is easily corrected with some pre-season shooting practice. A  dove field is one of the best possible training grounds for waterfowl hunters.  Doves present the same relative angles and distances as ducks and geese, and  because of the liberal bag limit on doves, shooters get to practice these shots  repeatedly.

Shooting sporting clays is another practice option. Contact a sporting clays  manager, and ask if you can come and choose certain stations to shoot over and  over. Select those stations that are most relevant to waterfowl hunting:  in-coming ducks, overhead geese, springing teal, etc. Stay on a station until  you’ve mastered it, then move on to the next. Such repetition locks in your mind  the right sight picture for breaking targets consistently. This transfers to  your waterfowl hunting.

Tip No. 3: Don’t get in a hurry. A key  reason for missing ducks and geese is shooting too fast. Some hunters think they  have to shoot quickly before the birds flare out of range. The truth is, when  hunters wait that extra second or two when waterfowl are coming in, then rise up  to shoot, there’s plenty of time to take three deliberate, well-spaced shots  before the birds get too far away. Consciously slow your pace. Don’t be jerky  when mounting your shotgun. Don’t rush your shots. Try not to compete with your  hunting partners. Just take your time, and focus solely on hitting your target.

Tip No. 4: Shoot one bird at a time. When a flight of ducks comes into the decoys, many hunters shoot . . . at the flight!  They don’t single out one bird, and concentrate strictly on it. An incoming  flight of ducks is 95 percent air. This is why you need to lock in on one bird,  and stay with it until it drops. Don’t “flock shoot.” Don’t switch targets.  Don’t let the excitement of the moment shatter your focus.

Tip No. 5: Shoot the trailing bird in a flight. Take the last or highest bird in an incoming fight. When ducks or geese are  about to land, most hunters focus on the closest, lowest, easiest shot, and two  or more hunters wind up shooting at the same bird. Instead, take a trailer with  the first shot. Then your shotgun will be in the right plane to shoot flaring  birds on the second and third shots. Also, you’ll have the satisfaction of  knowing you downed birds that no other hunters were shooting.

duckshoot 2Tip No. 6: Rely on instinct to calculate lead.
There is no mechanical system for figuring and holding proper leads. It’s all  instinct. When tracking a bird, focus on the front of the target (look for the  bird’s eye), swing the gun, and allow your mental computer to calculate the  right amount of lead. It’s like throwing a rock through a rolling tire. You  don’t think about lead. You just look at the tire, and throw the rock, and your  internal processor automatically determines how far to lead it. It’s the same  with shooting waterfowl.

Tip No. 7: Don’t stop swinging.
Stopping the swing with the shotgun is one of the most common reasons for  missing ducks and geese. You must follow through with your shot! Try stopping  your club when hitting golf ball, and see what happens. This wrecks your timing  and coordination. The same thing happens when you stop swinging your shotgun.  Keep the barrel moving after firing. Having good follow-through is the proper  conclusion to any athletic effort, be it shooting at a duck, swinging a golf  club or throwing a ball.

Tip No. 8: On long passing shots, lead more than you  think you need to.
On long passing shots, the main reason for  missing is shooting behind the bird. Force yourself to hold more lead than you  think you need, and again, keep the barrel moving.

Practice long crossing shots on a skeet range. Stand 10 yards behind station  No. 4 – the one in the middle – and fire repetitive shots at targets crossing at  90 degrees. This allows you to experiment and learn how much lead is needed at  this distance and target speed. And it builds confidence in your ability to make  this difficult shot.

Tip No. 9: When waterfowl are coming head-on, blot  them out and fire. When a bird is coming head-on and level,  wait until it’s in good killing range, then mount the shotgun so the barrel is  below the target, and swing up and through the bird. When the front of the  barrel blots out the target, pull the trigger. If a bird is coming head-on and  descending (dropping into decoys), hold slightly beneath the bird so your shot  column intercepts its glide path.

Tip No. 10: Attend a shooting school.
This is perhaps the best single tip for becoming a better shot. Several shooting  schools are available around the country. At a shooting school, a certified  shotgun instructor will provide one-on-one tutoring. These instructors are  trained to analyze shooting form, spot problems and correct them. Attending such  a school is not cheap, but shooters can expect immediate results from their  investment.

Here’s the bottom line on becoming a good shot on ducks and geese: how well  you shoot depends on how much effort you put into it. Sure, talent plays a role,  but dedication and effort can largely make up for a lack of natural aptitude.  Dedicate yourself to improving, then put the 10 tips above into practice. Your  shooting average will go up, and the birds will come down.

The ideal hunter is one who:
1. Carries a current game bird hunting licence and complies with the relevant bag limits and conditions of hunting.
2. Enquires about, and obtains where required, permission to cross land, and in so doing respects the wishes of the landowner regarding fences, gates, crops, stock and the parking of vehicles.
3. Is a competent shooter, able to estimate ranges, and be aware of his/her shooting competence and shotgun limitations.
4. Is able to distinguish those that may be lawfully hunted from protected species.
5. Will select appropriate shot size for the quarry being hunted.
6. Has immediate recourse to a trained gundog, or other means for the prompt retrieving of game, and will not hesitate to use that gundog, or other means to assist another hunter to retrieve game.
7. Has, and utilises the ability to promptly and humanely kill disabled game.
8. Practises the seven Police-approved principles of firearm safety:
Treat every firearm as loaded. Always point firearms in a safe direction. Load a firearm only when ready to fire. Identify your target Check your firing zone. Store firearms and ammunition safely. Alcohol impairs judgement 9. Ensures that all game shot is utilised.
10. Buries the entrails and feathers from field dressed game, and removes all litter from the hunting area.
11. Encourages all hunting companions to comply with the Code of Practice.

Don’t forget to check out Fish & Game NZ

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