There are over 1 million duck hunters in the United States.
That might sound like a lot, but this figure represents a significant decline compared to years gone by. Thankfully, hunter numbers are on the rise again.
This traditional sport is still popular around the country.
Are you thinking about giving it a shot for the first time? You’ve bought all the right clothing and gear. You’re camouflaged up, and now you’re ready to get out and start hunting. However, the right kit will only get you so far. It pays to know what you’re doing before you start duck shooting!
Want some advice to help make it a memorable first foray into duck hunting?
Keep reading for six top tips for your first waterfowl hunt.
1. Get the Right Gun
There are parallels between shotguns and suits.
Sure, you can buy a generic one off the shelf and it’ll do the job fine. It’ll cost you less as well. You might even look half decent and feel okay too.
However, wait until you try on a tailored suit for size. You’ll feel the difference instantly. It’s made to measure. You look and feel fantastic, but you pay for the privilege.
Everything above applies when buying a shotgun too. Indeed, the best gun hunting gear makes all the difference.
A customized gun will be glorious to shoot with, and you’ll have far more success too. A shotgun that fits your physical dimensions makes for a far more effective shooter. It’s easier to wield and hold steady. If possible, always opt for a customized gun.
Already bought yours? Don’t worry.
As we said, it might be fine. One adjustment you could make is to the stock though. Take it down to the local gunsmith to see what he can do. A stock that fits snugly into your shoulder is easier to shoot with.
2. Practice Beforehand
Practice makes perfect, right?
This classic adage applies to any new skill you’re trying to master, including shooting guns. Before the day of your first hunt, be sure to get some practice in.
The best way to benefit from your practice is to try different loads and chokes combinations.
You’ll become more comfortable with your gun, but you’ll also find the perfect combination of choke and shotshell loads for it too.
Set yourself up a target in a wide and open space. If possible, attach some paper to a board and draw a life-sized duck on it. Step back 40 to 50 yards and start shooting! You’ll realize what the duck looks like from a distance and get a feel for the shotgun too.
3. Take Your Time
New hunters tend to rush their shots.
It’s normal! After all, it’s your first hunt. There’s excitement in the air and you’re eager to start shooting.
You’ll end up rushing the shot because of your excitement, meaning that you’ll probably miss the target. You’re unsteady, you snatch at the trigger, and you lose sight of the target.
Make a conscious effort to slow things down. Taking your time is key to successful shooting. You’ve got more time than you think. Stop, raise the gun, breathe in, track the target, and gently squeeze the trigger while breathing out.
4. Don’t Follow the Flock
Hunting success is often counterintuitive. New hunters see a flock and assume it’s a guaranteed winner. They shoot into the mass of birds and expect to bring at least one down.
The problem is that there’s far more space between birds than you first think. Bringing one duck down in a flock will be more luck than judgment.
New shooters should remember to focus on one bird instead. When you see a flock, hone in on one duck at a time. When you see one drop, move on to another. This is the best hunting practice.
5. Hit Bullseye with the Bird’s Eye
Where you aim your shotgun makes all the difference!
That sounds obvious, but allow us to explain.
Beginner hunters often aim for the main bulk of the bird. It makes sense: it’s the biggest target after all. As such, they bring their shotgun up and aim at its body.
A far better approach is to aim at the bird’s eye instead. This serves two purposes.
First, if you aim at the eye and realize you can’t see it, then that bird is too far away. There’s no point in wasting a shot. Aiming at the eye also forces you to follow your gun through the shot. That means you continue to track the bird as your aim.
By keeping the gun ahead of the duck, you’ll improve your chances of bringing it down.
6. Head-On Shot? Blot It Out
One of the easiest shots to make is when the duck flies straight at you.
However, it’s also a shot that can intimidate new hunters. After all, the duck is coming in thick and fast, so your reactions need to be quick.
The best approach to making a successful head-on shot is to aim just below the bird. Imagine it flying towards you. You raise the shotgun until it’s in line and stop with the barrel aimed below. Pull the trigger when the barrel blots out the bird.
This is the best way to ensure you hit the target. Raise, wait, breathe, blot, and shoot.
Final Thoughts on Duck Shooting
There you have it: six top tips for going duck shooting for the very first time.
Educating yourself on successful shooting strategies is bound to pay off on the hunt itself. Hopefully, this post provided you with some useful insight into how to make your first hunt a successful one.
Looking to find some new gear for your first hunt? Head to the Hunting Gear section of the blog now.