May 27, 2018
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Maine’s upland bird and waterfowl seasons

Tom Hennessey | BDN
Tom Hennessey | BDN
By Tom Hennessey

Now that the first shots have been fired in Maine’s upland bird and waterfowl seasons, let’s draw a bead on the always interesting subject of wing shooting. Considering the books, videos and clinics now offering in-depth instructions on how to shoot a shotgun, you have to wonder how we gray-haired gunners ever managed to bag a bird or a duck. Typically, our instructors were single-shot, hammer-safety shotguns that eventually convinced us we couldn’t hit a moving target with a stationary gun.

By no means, though, were we totally self-taught. Accordingly, a few words from veteran bird hunters were as good as gospel: “You don’t aim that shotgun, chum, you point it, with both eyes open. It’s called snap shooting. Close an eye and you lose depth perception.” Or, ”Forget about the cover. Shoot through it, like there’s nothing between you and the bird. It only takes a couple of pellets to drop a partridge or woodcock. Waiting for an opening will only convince you that he who hesitates is lost.”

Waterfowl shooting over decoys, however, is entirely different. Usually, ducks and geese are seen approaching from a distance. Thus giving a hunter time to get things sorted out. Targeting one duck, for example, instead of foolishly shooting into a flock that’s darting, weaving and flaring; tucking his chin down so that his cheek is on the stock; tracking, leading, swinging and firing without stopping the gun. Without question, the latter causes more misses than any other fault common to wing shooting.

The runner-up, of course, is “flock shooting.” Hunters who persist in it should be recognized for their commitment to waterfowl conservation.

Granted, books, videos and clinics on shotgun shooting are helpful. But let’s face it, instruction in

proper stance and gun mounting hardly benefit a bird hunter who’s wrapped in briars or wedged

between alders when a partridge flushes. Or a duck hunter who’s scrambling to swing on a drake mallard that scaled over the blind while he was pouring coffee. Considering all of the aforementioned and more, it’s obvious that hunters who consistently drop birds and ducks learned three things early on: 1.The importance of a shotgun that fits. 2. Respect for the moving-object, stationary-gun dictum. 3. Contempt for the wing-shooting adage, “To hit is history, to miss is mystery.”

Tom Hennessey’s columns and artwork can be viewed at Tom’s email address is


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