Waterfowl Opener

The 2012 Waterfowl commences this Saturday at one half-hour before sunrise and based on the weather forecast it could be a little chilly.  Hopefully the next couple days cold weather doesn’t push all the wood-ducks and teal south since they are very susceptible to leaving early.

This was one of the fundamental reasons for adopting the earlier date changes for opening day since with a more traditional October date, many of the wood-ducks and blue-winged teal would have already headed to warmer climates.  I concur with these changes since my hunting has over the past decade been primarily in the Dakotas and this is the dates they have adopted for a few years now.  Make sure to properly identify your target and attempt to shoot the drakes instead of the hens.

I plan on hunting the Lake Elizabeth area south of Atwater with my brother, nephews and a couple friends so it really becomes a time to reflect on past memories and discuss and solve all the worlds issues on a frosty morning overlooking a decoy spread.  As the steam will rise from the warmer water compared to the air temperature the solitude of a lazy cool morning will be interrupted by the hail of a duck call followed by the thunder of a 12 gauge shotgun and then the command ‘fetch” to Duke, my yellow lab for the retrieve.  Most opening mornings this usually goes as planned up to the “fetch” command; it sometimes takes a few “practice” shots to start hitting your target on a consistent pace…. This is when Duke looks at me with the expression of “where is the bird”..(even if I didn’t shoot).

Shooting ducks on a consistent basis is an acquired skill that requires practice.  As a young boy it seems we were shooting on a regular basis.  Back in the mid seventies we were outside all the time and really honed our skills.  The most common reason for missing is not following through your target.  Most times right up to the point of pulling the trigger a person will stop the motion of their gun and subsequently miss since they will shoot behind the target versus shooting ahead or leading your target.

Most common reasons for missing a duck are:

1. Ensure you have a solid foundation to stand on.  Many times we are standing on unlevel ground so it’s difficult to properly align our feet.  You want you feet pointed towards you target.   If your right handed you want you left foot slightly ahead of your right foot about a shoulder’s width apart.

2. While shouldering you shotgun, make sure your cheek is touching the top of your stock and the gun is tucked tightly against your shoulder.   If this is not comfortable you will neet to have your gun fitted correctly prior to hunting.  These alignments are really basic but need to be followed.  By not following these two simple tasks, your sight line will not be correct and you will experience unsatisfactory results.

3. Pattern your shotgun with the ammunition you will be using.  Go to the gun range and determine your effective kill range and experiment with different chokes to arrive at the best setup that places the most pellets in the desired area of impact.  The most common choke for waterfowl hunting is the Modified or Improved Modified.  Most of the newer guns have multiple chokes and are designed for specific ammunition; steel or lead shot.  If you plan to “pass shoot” more than set up over “deeks”, a full choke may be best but remember your tighter pattern will be less forgiving.

4. If shooting over decoys or “deeks”, make sure not to set your deeks too far out.  Calculate your distance so if the ducks land short of your spread, you can still effectively reach out and touch them.  Also, don’t forget to establish a “landing area” in the deeks to direct the ducks to an area so all members of your party can shoot.  To create competition between your party members, identify who will take the first shot if a loner comes in.  If they miss, then it’s a free for all afterwards.  You will find that your success ratio will improve since you tend to concentrate more.

During your time in the field this weekend challenge yourself to observe all the extra “acts of nature”…..this will hopefully inspire you to gain a greater appreciation of our natural resources and make sure to set a priority to introduce our great sport of hunting to anyone; young, old, male or female.

I will share my “Opening Day” experience with you next week and will also share some pictures with you.

Practice safety all the time, no exception…Good Hunting!!