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Make Every Shot Count

Preseason practice will help you make the most of your shooting opportunities this fall
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  • photo by Chris Jennings
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Story at a Glance
  • Practice at home or on the shooting range before the season begins
  • Pattern your shotgun or get a professional to take a look

by Will Brantley

Few would have been envious of my duck-shooting ability as a teenager. My dad thought this was hilarious. He limited his waterfowling to one or two trips per year, but he quail hunted most days during the season and was a deadly shot. "I don't see how you can miss a mallard," he'd say. "It's like shooting at a boxcar sailing into the decoys."

Of course, the shooting styles for quail and ducks are much different. Ducks are a lot bigger, but they are also faster and apt to be crossing left or right, flying overhead, appearing from behind you, settling into a decoy spread, or springing off the water. Duck hunters typically shoot while hiding in brush, standing in waist-deep water, or stretched out in a layout blind. Approaching dogs on point in an open field isn't part of the equation.

Dad knows all these things. But even now, he enjoys debates on quail shooting versus duck shooting. I'm still at a disadvantage in these debates, because when he does join me for a duck hunt, he shoots as well on ducks as he does on quail. He's just a naturally talented wingshooter. But he's also burned through untold cases of shotgun shells in his lifetime. Great shotgunners like exhibition shooters Tom Knapp and Patrick Flanigan will tell you that practice, however you can get it, is the only way to become a better wingshooter.

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