By Wade Bourne
Several years back, a friend and I were hunting with a guide and another party of four hunters we hadn’t met until joining them in the blind. Action had been slow most of the day, but it was picking up in the hour before shooting time ended.
Suddenly the guide spotted a flock of mallards on a path that would carry them near our spread. “Those ducks will work,” he said, and he started calling. In response to the guide’s highball calls, the 30 or so birds cupped toward our pothole. Somehow, a lone drake managed to pull several yards ahead of the flock, and he was coming in fast.
As the greenhead sailed into range, my friend rose and dropped it cleanly. However, the other ducks flared out of range and escaped without anyone firing another shot.
If looks could kill, my friend would have died on the spot. The guide and other hunters were models of self-control, but their stony stares got their message across. The guide finally said, “It would be best if you waited until I call the shot.”
Deciding when to call the shot affects hunting success, enjoyment, and safety. Before a hunt begins, hunters should agree on who will be responsible for calling the shots. Usually this person is the lead caller, who has to keep up with the birds to call them effectively and therefore is usually best able to judge when they are committed to land or when they will pass over the decoys within shooting range. Thus, the lead caller usually has the best “feel” for when shots should be taken.
With this duty comes the responsibility to keep other hunters in the blind informed and prepared to shoot. It’s not fair for hunters huddled back in the blind to suddenly hear “Take ’em!” when they are not anticipating the shot and don’t know where the birds are. This situation leads to confusion and delay in getting on target.
A better example of how a shot caller might communicate with hunting partners would sound something like this: “They’re swinging behind the blind. Get ready. . . . Off the right corner now. . . . In front. Shoot ’em!” Thus informed, other hunters know where to look when they rise to shoot.