As someone who has been hunting ducks, geese, grouse, and other birds for more than 40 years, I believe I have some expertise to offer. In fact, I would go so far as to say no one knows more about missing game birds than I do.
Over the decades, I have missed birds in the air, in the water, while they sat in trees and as they sauntered away on solid ground. I have missed them at close and far range and, most spectacularly, at optimum range.
Oh, sure, I have hit a bunch too. Accidents happen.
What I have also learned, however, is that there are several ways to reduce the misses you make.
The first and perhaps most effective one is to hunt alone. If you do this, I can guarantee that you will reduce your misses on that hunt by no less than 100 per cent – if you can keep your mouth shut.
Unfortunately, most of us hunt with witnesses – I mean hunting buddies – and this makes reducing the misses attributed to you even more difficult.
Yet, it is not wholly impossible.
One of the most effective ways to reduce your misses is to time your shots to coincide with those of other hunters. Then, when a bird folds, you quickly say, “I got it.”
The quick part is critical.
This is not as easy as it sounds, especially when you hunt with my hunting buddies. Some of those guys are so expert at this that they yell out, “I got it!” before even shooting. Yet, if you get some tutoring, preferably from a competent auctioneer, you will be the first to claim a downed bird, whether you hit it or not.
You can also reduce your misses by always aiming at the first bird leading a flock. With any luck at all, you’ll hit one of the followers. The key here is to tell everyone, “I was actually aiming at that bird because I noticed that it looked a little more edible than the whole flock in front of it.”
Which bring me to another strategy – always aim at the largest, closest and slowest bird in range – after all, that is the one everyone else is aiming at too. If it falls, quickly yell “Got it!” If you and everyone else misses that one, it will never be spoken of again.
Another less reliable wayof denying a miss is to say you never shot at all after you shot. Yes, this sounds like an impossible thing to do when you are standing shoulder to shoulder with someone in a duck blind, but not if you quickly open a jar of rotten eggs and suggest that the chili you ate last night was “kind of spicy.”
You can also fall back on the claim that you didn’t miss at all. Naturally, the hunters with you will point out that the bird you shot at kept flying and is now in the next county. To that, you should immediately reply that the bird in question is “clinically dead” but being carried by “a combination of freak thermals and momentum.” Then, assure them that you’ll retrieve it later.
The point here is that, if you live right, there are many ways that you can prevent other hunters from spreading rumours that will have local farmers inviting you to shoot at the broad sides of their barns just to see for themselves.
In which case, tell them you were aiming at the knothole.