As an avid water fowler and a relatively successful one, a question Scott Taylor is often asked is: “How do I shoot more ducks?” Here are Scott’s five top tips to help you be more successful this season.
5. Practice makes perfect
There’s almost no point arriving at your wetland on opening morning to fire shots at ducks with no results. A bit of practice prior to opening is almost guaranteed to result in a better outcome.
I also hear many accounts from hunters who pick up their gun in the morning to find its not cycling or firing. Make sure you check over your firearm well before opening to ensure it is functioning properly. Most gunsmiths are way too busy one or two weeks out to accommodate another fix, so be prepared well in advance.
Go and practice some passing shots at your local club, or better yet, Hunting and Fishing NZ hold a series of eyeopener shoots with various sporting layouts which will certainly help you get your eye in. You can find your local Clay Target club here: https://www.nzclaytarget.org.nz/clubs
In the off-season I’m always keeping an eye out for new water and watching the habits of my local waterfowl. I’m lucky to live close to my hunting spots, so it’s relatively easy to get the lay of the land, but for a lot of you it may not be that easy.
Put a weekend aside and head down to your possie and just watch what happens. You may find one area has more activity in the evening than in the early morning. Take notes! Our main pond shoots well in the morning but after 10am the flight dies, so very rarely do we bother with an evening shoot because we know it’s not worth the effort.
3. Keep movement to a minimum
One of my pet peeves when duck hunting is sitting next to a mate with itchy feet or restless legs. Stay still and keep your adrenalin under control. Ducks have excellent eyesight and can detect movement extremely well. Keep still, and while I’m not a fan of wide-brimmed hats, they can be great to help conceal your face. Personally, I prefer a baseball cap.
Whenever possible I keep my face down and never look up unless the birds are flying away. If you have birds flaring away for no apparent reason, have a quick look over your shoulder and check your hunting buddy doesn’t have a case of the jitters!
I can’t stress enough the importance of good concealment! Ducks have exceptionally good eyesight and as their eyes are placed on either side of their heads (monocular vision), they possess 360° vision. As humans we must look left to right to identify passing objects – ducks don’t.
Ducks can detect reds, yellows, and blues clearly, so don’t go water fowling in your blue camo top! Make sure you take the time to camo your hunting blind and while the outside must be well covered in foliage, make certain the floor is also hidden. Birds flying over are going to be looking down and a well cleaned wooden floor can stand out against green/brown foliage.
1. Wait for the shot!
Opening morning last season was a cracker, but not before a real stuff up on a pair of plump mallards. The birds had descended and on the third pass appeared to be well within shooting range. I figured next pass and we’d take them. They passed behind us out of sight and as they banked around towards us, I kept my face down. I thought they would come straight over our pond left to right, so I called it without looking: “TAKE EM!”
We jumped up only to see the birds flare 50-plus yards out and veer away never to be seen again. Obviously, they had gone in the opposite direction to the one I had anticipated.
Wait until the birds are right in the hot spot before you shoot. I’m not a great shot, so to compensate I try to make shots as easy as possible. I’m a fan of the straight ahead or the hoverer, so wherever possible I will take these shots and leave the more difficult birds to the more competent shooter in the blind.
Many years ago, we took a rangefinder down to our pond and took readings on key points round the wetland, so we would know exactly how far out the shots are likely be. This is a really good way to get a relatively accurate indication of the distance the birds are at.
Good luck this season and be safe!
Article by: Scott Taylor