Recently, I was duck hunting with a person I was mentoring when he missed a duck that should have been an easy shot.
It was a lone mallard that was cupped over the decoys at 25 yards and my friend missed it cleanly all three times.
He immediately proclaimed that he missed because he had not practiced shooting a lot this year and he had panicked. As a veteran waterfowler, I was horrified.
For what he illustrated was a fundamental rookie mistake. He did not know how to properly miss a duck.
Since he was relatively young and new at the sport, I thought I could help him by missing the next three passes. That way, I thought, I could show him real-life examples of how to miss a duck properly in field conditions.
Not a lot of guys will do this for young hunters, but I thought, ‘if I don’t show him how to miss a duck, how the heck is he ever supposed to know how to do it properly?’
Over those three passes I taught the kid a lot.
On pass number one, for instance, after a trio of wood duck had departed unscathed, he learned that the best thing a hunter can do is buy economy-grade shells.
“So you’re saying that the cheaper the shell the more you can blame it for the miss?” he reiterated.
I had barely finished nodding when a lone mallard hen buzzed the decoys, which gave me the opportunity to miss again for the purposes of my young friend’s education. This time I blamed the duck for being too stupid to know it was actually dead.
“Too stupid?” my friend asked incredulously.
“They can be like that,” I said.
Later that morning, while my buddy was pouring us coffee from a thermos, I intentionally missed a lone goose with three shots. Not a lot of guys would have gone to all that effort, but I thought that would ensure my friend learned the lesson well.
But, God bless him, he was eager to learn.
“How the heck could anyone miss such an easy shot?” he yelped. “And three times too?”
I then went on to explain that these misses were due to a combination of a shift in tectonic plates, a stutter in the Earth’s rotation and a quick and undetectable (to us) gust of wind high above, which all conspired to ruin three otherwise perfectly executed shots.
“Plus,” I added, “that goose was also stupid.”
For the next 15 minutes of so, my hunting buddy let all of this sink in. Some people learn by asking questions or by memorizing processes, formulas, or phrases. But this guy apparently learned things by shaking his head and muttering the word “unbelievable.”
Sadly, however, we did not get a chance to see if this worked for him because he hit the next two ducks in a row – which was frustrating for me, since I was still in teaching mode.
But just as I thought I was a failure as a duck hunting mentor he confessed something.
“You know,” he explained. “I use cheap shells, and there was a combination of a shift in tectonic plates, a stutter in the Earth’s rotation and a quick and undetectable (to us) gust of wind high above, all of which conspired to ruin my shots. Plus, both those ducks were too stupid to know they were dead….”
“But you hit them,” I said.
“Yes,” he conceded. “But I was aiming at the sky…”