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Calibrating Our Internal Sights

Dec 02, 2015

During the holidays and into the New Year a lot of people reflect and recalibrate their sights on what is important to them. Before and during the hunting season, examining what it takes to have a quality hunt can also be helpful.


I was reminded of this the other day as I sat in the marsh with my brothers and a group of mallards circled overhead. The ducks inspected our decoys from aloft and we waited to see if our spread looked life-like enough for another pass. They temporarily turned away and we called back, inviting them to adjust their trajectory and come in for a final approach. They swung around one more time, made their last adjustments, and cupped their wings for landing. It was great!

Getting Them In Close

One of the more rewarding parts to duck hunting is seeing birds really commit and literally drop into your decoys. Allowing the birds to get close enough where you can get a good clean shot right before they touch down is exhilarating. As a sportsman, I hate the feeling of seeing a bird fly off knowing that it may be crippled. Now I'll confess that I'm not going to win any trap and skeet tournaments. I know my limitations and try not to waste any more steel than I have too. Perhaps this is another reason why I prefer to let ducks get in close before opening fire.

Effective Wingshooting Workshop

In the past year I took part, learned, and improved my skill at one of the Department's workshops entitled, Effective Wingshooting for the Hunter. First of all it was a great event, partially because it was free. Secondly, I enjoyed it because I was able to knock some dust off and get a day of shooting in before the season. Thirdly, the variety of information I learned was surprising and enlightening. One of the activities that really hit home that day was the exercise where we judged the distance of different birds across a field. Along with this exercise in mental math, we learned some surprising statistics about the average duck hunter.

  • The average first shot at a goose is 67 yards.
  • The average first shot at a duck is 53 yards.
  • When tested, most waterfowl hunters are unable to effectively break 8-10 crossing targets at 20 yards.
  • Most hunters think birds are much closer than they are and underestimate the distance by 10-20 yards or more.
  • Most hunters are shooting 30-40 yards beyond their personal range, which leads to higher crippling rates.

As you can see from these surprising finds, being a good shot isn't just about locking in on a bird, tracking it, and pulling the trigger. Judging distance and discerning when it is acceptable to shoot is a critical part of a quality waterfowl hunt, not only for you, but also the birds involved. A helpful tip so that you aren't reaching with your shot is to walk off the distance before a hunt and setting a landmark at the edge of your range. You can use a decoy, find a tree, or some brush to mark the appropriate distance before adrenaline starts rushing through your veins in those final moments before a shot. Nobody likes skybusting or crippling birds.


The holiday season isn't the only time you can reflect or improve your skills. Next time an Effective Wing-shooting Workshop comes up, I encourage you to sign up. It is definitely worth it. Learning some basic fundamentals or getting a short refresher and receiving a little feedback on your form can go a long way. In the meantime while you're waiting for that next batch of ducks to come in this waterfowl season, I encourage you to think about calibrating that next shot. What is too far? Where will they come from? Where do I need to aim? I think you'll find that it will improve your overall hunting experience. I know it helps mine. Good luck, enjoy family the holiday season, and happy hunting.


You can periodically check to see when the next Effective Winghooting for the Hunter Workshop is available by clicking here.


Preparing to Land
Being able to judge the distance of approaching ducks is critical in being able to successfully harvest waterfowl.


I greatly appreciate the fact that you mentioned the importance of a "quality" hunt. This many times means hunting by yourself or with one, maybe two friends of family. That is a very important factor in determining how to structure a "fair" draw system so EVERYONE has an equal opportunity to draw out. That is why EVER Conservation Area that has a daily waterfowl draw should ONLY use the single pill draw and do away with the every member draw system. QUALITY over quantity is how the decision should be made. I appreciate the fact that Duck Creek utilizes the single pill draw and I encourage all conservation staff (at all levels) to go back to that system.

Hi Frank, It is particularly tough for me as I am blind in my right eye so judging distance has been an issue for me when trying to fine tune my waterfowl shooting skills. I just try to do my best and that is about all I can is a pretty tough handicap to say the least when aiming. Good article!!

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