Shooting failures provide learning opportunities
Every duck and goose seasons offers fresh challenges — obstacles we must overcome on our path to waterfowling nirvana.
This past campaign served up several dandy opportunities, including new ways to miss birds. That concept isn't unique, of course, as I seem to suffer through a few head-shaking whiffs year after year. And of course, no one goes 100 percent during the season, and those occasional failures just serve to hammer home the importance of sound fundamentals and consistent practice in wing-shooting.
But a few stick in your craw.
My father and I had just finished a great slough hunt at a large South Dakota waterfowl production area and were ready to leave, full straps in tow. But then I heard geese and saw several flocks on the horizon — honkers returning to water to loaf after feeding in grain fields to the north. I immediately got on the call and turned a wad of eight geese toward our slough.
Giggling, I readied for the shot. With their wings locked and feet down, the birds would finish 35 yards in front of us. It was triple time.
My first shot peppered the water just below the lead goose, and my second attempt flew somewhere over the bird's back. No matter. Several honkers were still in range, so I swung through a goose crossing from left to right and smoothly slapped the trigger. I'm not sure where that shot string hit, but it was somewhere in the air around that bird. Every goose escaped, but at least my dad was polite enough to suppress his laughter.
Don't ask me what happened. I guess I didn't shoulder my gun correctly. Sight pictures and follow-through don't matter much if your pea-shooter isn't lined up right. The incident reinforced the importance of proper gun mount.
The wood ducks flushed too far for a shot, so I slipped into their timber-lined hole and resolved to wait a half-hour to see if they'd return. Sand and muck swirled around my boots, and I felt my seemingly stable shooting platform start to give way.
No biggie, I thought. I'd — wait, ducks!
Ten woodies piled over the tree line and bore down on the stream. Right on time, I rose, swung on the lead drake and fired. Instinctively, I knew my gun had stopped awkwardly, probably because my feet were mired in virtual concrete. Another desperation shot sent the birds on their way, and I was pretty sure they wouldn't return after that.
Dang it. Without a good shooting platform and the ability to point my feet in the right direction, I was sunk. Hey, at least no one was there to see me.
Tight Right Fright
Ten of us lined the Manitoba fence line, sharing equally in the bounty of mallards and honkers that swarmed over our barley-field spread. It was glorious.
To our right, someone shouted. I peeked out of my field blind to see a mallard zipping up the fence line toward us, 90 degrees to my right.
With no time to wait, I threw open the blind doors, swung on the duck and flung an ounce-plus of shot somewhere in the zip code behind the duck. Muffled laughter erupted from my hunting partners.
Argh. Hard-right angles are tough for right-hand shooters, of course, especially when you're stuck in a coffin-like blind. Still, I'd seen the duck approaching and could have twisted my body a bit to allow a better shot. Or, I might have waited until the bird flared overhead and then taken a relatively easier shot.
Thankfully, most of the other birds that day decoyed in front of us. I'm not sure my companions could have withstood another gut-busting gaffe.
Those misses will live in memory for quite a while, and I'll hopefully be better prepared for similar situations next year. It's the new whiff opportunities I'm not prepared for that have me worried, though.