Ammunition manufacturers must love bird hunters.
Ever watch one of those TV shows where a group of waterfowl hunters are lying in amongst dozens, if not hundreds of decoys? A flock of geese or ducks commits to landing in the decoys. The guide yells “Take them!” The hunters sit up and the shotguns begin to bark. Ever count how many shots are heard and how few birds drop? I haven’t either, but the ratio of shots to kills seems to be very high. Five shots per bird? Eight shots per bird? Whatever the ratio is, it is not flattering to the hunters. I’ve seen the same in some pheasant and other upland bird hunting shows. It would seem that bird hunters could use a little more practice!
Preparing your shotgun for bird hunting is similar to preparing your rifle for big game season.
1) Immediately after the season, clean your shotgun. The techniques are very similar to cleaning your rifle. Please read the accompanying article “Rifle Practice”. Most shotguns allow for cleaning the barrel from the rear. Consult your owner’s manual to learn how to remove your barrel from the action.
2) If your shotgun requires repair, get it done ASAP. This will allow you to get your shotgun back from the gunsmith and still have time to practice.
3) If you’re trying some new loads, pattern them on a board. Learn what your effective range is with your chosen choke and that load. You don’t want a load that patterns with holes in it that a bird can fly through. If your factory chokes produce unsatisfactory patterns, try other loads or aftermarket chokes.
4) Find a coach. It never hurts to get a little quality instruction and coaching. Everybody has room for improvement.
5) Practice! Go to your local range and shoot some trap or skeet, maybe some sporting clay? If nothing else, buy a box of clays and a handthrower. With a buddy, find a place to throw some birds and get some practice in. If you’re a waterfowler, it wouldn’t hurt to practice sitting up in your layout blind. Remember to clean up your shell casings and clay remnants.
Preparing for bird season will make you a more effective and ethical hunter. And it is just plain fun.