by Steve Smith
No matter how many we seem to remember making, true doubles on ducks over decoys are pretty rare.
Not that they don’t happen, but to some people they seem to happen with a lot more regularity than to the rest of us.
Part of the reason has to do with a good decoy placement, good blind location, good calling, and just plain luck. If you have these things going for you, you probably will have more ducks coming your way and more chances for doubles. Let’s face it, to make a double, you have to have at least two legal ducks within good shotgun range at about the same time, and they have to be dropped where they can be retrieved. One of the tragedies of waterfowling is that so many birds are lost.
Unfortunately, a large number of these lost birds are the second bird of an attempted double. Studies have shown that the greatest crippling shot in waterfowling is the third shot from a repeating gun. Many times these shots are out-of-killing-range drags at departing birds. There is no chance to really make a clean kill, but the shooter’s excitement level keeps his finger working faster than his brain.
There is a way that the oldtimers were able to regularly take doubles on ducks. When the back limits were high, doubles were a fact of life. Now, a double can end your day nearly before it begins, and since we’re out there for enjoyment, maybe you ought to re-think the whole concept and take them cleanly one at a time.
But, if you do want to shoot doubles, here’s how. First, make sure you are using enough gun. In these steel shot days, it’s even more important to have the right combination of gauge, choke, and shot charge. This is going to vary with the conditions. Up to you.
Next, you have to get the birds as close as possible. With birds such as mallards, you have to get them convinced that they need to land in your blocks, so this means proper blind location, good calling, a believable stool, and holding still until the last second. You have to stay hidden and keep your dog hidden. Most of us have never met a Lab we didn’t like, we’ve also never met one that could hold still when he spots ducks.
Finally, you have to realize that you must put aside temptation, the temptation of shooting at the closest duck first. Properly, when the birds start to come in and everything’s perfect, you rise to shoot and one duck will stand out as closest, with the most vital area exposed to you. Usually, when the ducks are coming your way, the head and neck are visible—and hittable. After they’ve been shot at, not only do they start putting a lot of distance between you and them, they also flare and turn, sheltering their vitals with their heavy wings and back.
So immediately, the second duck is the tougher target. He has less of his vital area exposed and he’s farther off. The only way to beat that is to start with a farther-away duck and take the closest bird as your second one. Very often, we take the closest bird first and then wave the muzzle around trying to find another likely target. Instead, we should take the farther bird first, which very often is the easier shot when he’s first coming in because other ducks are ahead of him. Then, having folded up this one, we turn to the closer bird, which is now flaring but is still close, close enough for a quick killing shot.
If you plan your moves ahead of time so that you know which birds will be shot in which order, you can make doubles—and cripple far fewer ducks.