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Break Bad Shooting Habits, Bag More Ducks

6 pitfalls to overcome for that perfect shot
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  • photo by Bob Long
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Story at a Glance

Bad habits to break:
  1. Shooting a poor-fitting gun
  2. Failing to focus
  3. Analyzing each shot
  4. Shooting too far
  5. Watching with your head, not your eyes
  6. Not studying your quarry

©2007, Keith Sutton

Peeking through the leafy branches that covered our blind, I could see a dozen or so mallards as they circled through the woods, eyeing the open hole in the flooded timber by which we sat. They were still far out of shotgun range, but my hunting companion, Vernon Baker, convinced them to turn our way with a sharp hail call.

The pod of greenheads and Susies rocketed by at treetop height and banked sharply in response to Vern's calling. Vern turned this way then that, trying to keep an eye on the mallards speeding through the maze of trees.

A staccato burst of feeding notes was the final persuader. The birds began dropping through the canopy. They plummeted into the flooded trees from a single point of the compass, wings cupped, feet splayed, the emerald heads of the drakes glistening in sharp contrast to the vivid crimson and orange of the autumn-colored oaks. The soft whistling of their wings filled our ears.

The ducks were right in front of us, only 30 yards away.

"I can't miss," I thought. "It's ducks for dinner tonight."

My heart thumped loudly as I waited for Vern's signal. Then suddenly he called out, "Get 'em!"

The ducks towered skyward again. I quickly mounted my shotgun and fired. Way high! Twice more I fired. I can still see those greenheads slicing away over the painted woods.

Vernon looked at me rather incredulously and smiled. I felt my cheeks flush.

"Ducks aren't hard to hit," he said. "They're just easy to miss."

I don't suppose I'll ever forget that twisted old saying: "Ducks aren't hard to hit; they're just easy to miss."

I've used it a time or two myself when hunting companions were having a bad shooting day like I did back then. And the more I think about that old saw, the more I realize how true it is. When we're having an off day, it's usually due to our own errors, not because ducks are exceptionally evasive or acrobatic.

The cure? Well, often as not it's simply more shooting. Forget what's happening and just keep hunting. After a few more shots, you'll finally connect. Then after another dozen, you'll start coming out of the slump.

Do some self-analysis and figure out if you're missing because of bad habits. If you are, it's never too late to change them.

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