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10 Shooting Tips for Waterfowl

Shoot better and enjoy your hunting more with these tips up your sleeve
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  • An incoming flight of birds is 95 percent air. Focus on just one for a successful shot.
    photo by Robert Whitney
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Story at a Glance
  1. Make sure your shotgun fits
  2. Practice shooting in the preseason
  3. Don't get in a hurry
  4. Shoot one bird at a time
  5. Shoot the trailing bird in a flight
  6. Rely on instinct to calculate lead
  7. Don't stop swinging
  8. On long passing shots, lead more than you think you need to
  9. When waterfowl are coming head on, blot them out and fire
  10. Attend a shooting school

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.

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.

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.

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.

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