Unless birds are flying directly toward or away from you, you’ll need to ‘lead’ them. As birds are moving quickly when you shoot, if you just point the gun at the bird and pull the trigger you’ll miss! The birds will have flown out of the spot by the time the shot reaches that position. Instead, imagine you’re painting the bird out with a brush; swing the gun from behind the bird, following its flight path, and shoot when the muzzle leads the bird. Remember to keep the gun swinging after you’ve pulled the trigger to complete the ‘stroke’. An old and useful saying is, “It’s better miss ahead than behind.” Pre-season clay bird shoots are held throughout the country, and getting your eye in at these events will make your opening morning much more successful!
|Swing from behind along the line of the bird's flight path.
|When you're crossing the head, squeeze the trigger.
|Keep swinging past the bird. Don't stop when you fire.
Most new hunters take their shot far too early. The effective range of a shotgun is 40 metres, and shooting at birds beyond this range generally only scares them off. Practise estimating ranges by judging when an object is 40 metres away (say a post or plant) and then stepping it out. Do this regularly and you’ll start shooting in range.
Game birds have an extensive range; they can be found on lakes, estuaries, rivers, steams, swamps ponds and drains. Increasingly, and as a result of more intensive farming practices, mallards and shelduck can be found on pasture, crops and stubble paddocks.
A boat can be useful; it allows access to many areas, especially public areas that otherwise, you would not be able to reach.
Once you've successfully shot a game bird, ensure you mark that fallen bird; watch closely where the bird falls and note any distinctive object nearby.
Once you’ve found a good location keep still, keep low and keep hidden. Movement alerts ducks that all is not well. A face mask is an important accessory and follow the birds approach with your eyeballs only.
Use a stealthy approach. If you see ducks on a stretch of river or a pond, approach carefully using whatever cover you can; drains, hills, hedges, low ground, etc.
Remain hidden; a common mistake is getting bored and moving out of a maimai too soon. Be patient.
Dawn and dusk are productive; be in position early and don’t be too eager to leave in the evening.
Bad weather means good hunting; when it blows hard, birds rafted up on large lakes and at sea fly into small areas seeking shelter. If it floods, birds fly around looking for flooded paddocks and other new sheets of water. Be there first, with a few decoys and a duck call, and you’ll be in the action.
A dog is a great asset to hunters, to retrieve shot birds, find wounded game, flush live ones, and as a companion throughout the year. Hunting with your dog builds a connection between hunter and dog like no other.
There are a range of books, multi-media and clubs that provide advice on training a gun dog, and many find this a hugely rewarding pastime in itself.
Labradors are popular waterfowl dogs, pointer breeds are popular upland game dogs and both can often be cross-trained.