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Waterfowling is tough business. We hunt in swamps, rivers, lakes, and farm fields. The conditions wreak havoc on guns, boats, equipment, and hunters. If everything goes right, we might be lucky enough to shoot a duck or two. Getting those ducks from the water to our game strap is the last step in the process. Believe it or not, it is often the most difficult part. Here are four ways to stop crippling loss.
Retrievers Save Game
The legendary 1959 Federal Duck Stamp portrayed King Buck, one of the greatest retrievers ever. Next to him, the words “Retrievers Save Game”. Truer words may have never been written. A well trained dog can track down even the wiliest of crippled birds. Sure, you could try to run down a bird in five foot tall cattails, but four legs are better than two in the marsh… and of course his nose is superior to any of your legs.
Change Your Shot
Hevi-Shot, Bismuth, Tungsten, and other alternatives to lead shot are typically 30 percent more dense than steel shot. What does this mean? It leads to greater lethality down range. Steel often chronographs at high speeds right out of the barrel but loses energy much faster than Hevi-Shot & Tungsten. Most hunters won’t see a difference at 20 yards. But at 30 yards or more, there is a big difference between steel and lead alternatives.
Know The Distance
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat in the blind and watched hunters across the lake shoot at birds sixty yards or further from them. Perhaps these hunters don’t care how high the birds are. They may be just pulling and praying, so to speak. They probably have no idea how far the ducks actually are from their blind. Each shell has it’s own maximum effective range through each choke in your gun. Hunters have their own effective range as well. Knowing what your maximum range is and learning to judge distance will greatly decrease your cripples.
Aim For The Head
Shooting birds in the head is common practice for turkey hunters. But when shooting ducks in flight, most hunters aim for the body just because it is the largest part of the bird. However, if you are a little behind the bird when aiming for the body you may miss completely or worse, land a crippling shot to the back end of the bird. If you aim for the head and hit your mark, the bird will splash into the water dead. If your shot is behind, you should still hit the vitals.
Limiting your cripples will bring a lot more satisfaction to your hunts. No one likes to lose birds and every minute used to track down cripples is a minute you’re not hunting. Following these four guidelines will help you improve as a waterfowl hunter.