Off-Season Practice: The Seven Hardest Waterfowl Shots To Make

Waterfowling offers a wide variety of shooting situations with what should be fairly easy shots that can become very tough shots. Following are seven of the most common, and sometimes the toughest, waterfowling shots and how to make them.

Off-Season Practice: The Seven Hardest Waterfowl Shots To Make

tough shotgun shots

1. Geese Incoming Right At You. This appears to be an easy shot, and it can be; but this shot also causes many common mistakes. As you watch the birds approach, seemingly slow and easy, it’s tempting to aim right at the birds, stopping your swing. Gunners often shoot too soon or below the birds. If the birds are coming straight in, and within shooting range, but not settling into the decoys, wait until you can see their eyes clearly, and always keep your gun moving with the birds. Then swing the gun up until the barrel blocks the head.

2. Birds Behind And Going Away. Pass-shooting birds that have come into the decoys, but decided to quickly vacate the country and offering only an over-the-shoulder shot, can be extremely tricky. This shot often causes you to shoot in awkward and unbalanced positions. Gunners also often don’t get the stock correctly positioned on their shoulder. The best shot is made starting behind the bird and swinging through, making the shot just before the bird passes directly behind you. Once the duck or goose begins to go directly away from you, the shot becomes exponentially more difficult, not only because of the tendency to undershoot, but the aft-end of the bird offers less of a target and more protection.

drop decoy shot 

3. Puddle Ducks Dropping into Decoys. This seemingly easy classic shot at ducks dropping straight down into timbered potholes is sometimes made harder than it should be. Often the birds drop in rather quickly, making it easy to shoot over them. Put the center of your pattern at the birds dangling red feet rather than centering on the body.

duck off water shot

4. Ducks Coming Off The Water. A single duck dumps into the decoys without warning and sits in the water for a few minutes. Most gunners won’t shoot the sitting duck, but usually shout, stand up or attempt to scare the duck into flight. The duck jumps straight up and the gunner misses an easy shot. Most gunners shoot under the duck, but it’s easy to shoot over the rising bird as well. Puddle ducks jump off the water in the direction they are headed at that moment, and then they have to turn into the wind to gain altitude. They will slow momentarily as they make the turn, offering the best shot.

bluebill from left

5. Bluebills Or Teal From The Left. Bluebills or teal often buzz or “straf” the blind like miniature jet fighters, and offer even good gunners excuses for misses. This is especially so when the birds come in from left to right. Most gunners shoot right-handed and it’s easier to catch up with swinging birds moving left. Birds moving right require more effort. Regardless, the best tactic is to start behind the bird and swing through, shooting as the gun bead passes the bird’s bill. This technique is used for all crossing shots, and yes, it has to be fast for buzzing divers or teal.

mallards circling 

6. Mallards Circling Directly Overhead. Wary mallards can be extremely frustrating, often circling and circling the blind. Finally in frustration someone says “take ’em” and a volley of shots leave nary a feather on the water. The biggest mistake made is misjudging distance. Place a “marker” decoy out in front of the blind at 45 yards and don’t be tempted to take anything further out, even with today’s “super” shells.

cripple duck shoot  7. Cripples On The Water. A crippled duck sitting on the water looks easy, but a lot of shells are wasted on this shot. A crippled duck often sits very low to the water with little vulnerable area exposed, except for the head. The most common mistake is to shoot too low. If you don’t believe it, watch the next time your buddy shoots a cripple. Aim just a bit above the head for a better pattern at this small target. I like to carry some sixes for this shot. You don’t need a lot of penetrating power, but a wider spread of shot.
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