You overheard the guys talking about the great duck hunting they’ve been enjoying, and you wheedled an invitation to go along on their next outing.
What an opportunity. Time to dig out your finest camouflage and grab your calls, shotgun and shells. But not waders (see No. 8). You haven’t invested any time helping to clean the blind, touch up the camouflage or fix anything. So why not just go hunting and enjoy yourself to the max? After all, those guys hunt all the time, and this is the first chance you’ve had to join them. What do you have to lose?
Turns out, a lot. Hunters are a welcoming bunch, but we’re quick to boot freeloaders and jerks who don’t belong in camp. If you’re a little rusty on your etiquette, pay attention to these 14 tips to ensure your hunt will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
1. Be Late to the Meeting Place
What difference will sleeping in an extra 15 minutes make? Sure, it might mean missing first shooting light when there’s a long drive ahead, plus a walk or boat ride, but that’s not a big deal. Want to make a real impression? Take a nap during the drive. Let the other guys stay alert and chauffer you to their favorite spot. Pay close attention to where you’re hunting though, especially if it’s on public land. When you arrive, drop a waypoint with onX Hunt to ensure you can find the spot again without them.
2. Don’t Offer to Pay Your Share of Expenses
Gas for the truck and boat, or groceries for blind meals? Nah, someone else will cover it. But be first to reach for a plate of bacon and scrambled eggs someone else brought and cooked. Clean up your mess, and pick up your candy wrappers, pop cans and empty shotshells? Don’t bother. You’re not the maid. For bonus points, bring a couple of doughnuts and don’t share with anyone.
3. Offer to Help, But Only Where It’s Warm
Forget your waders. They leak, and you haven’t had time since the previous season to patch or replace them. Instead, offer to fire up the stove to warm the blind while your hunting partners break ice and set decoys. But don’t let that stop you from offering advice on how to set the spread. Likewise, when it’s time to leave, busy yourself organizing your hunting bag “for tomorrow” while others gather decoys. Let them carry the decoys and dead birds back to the truck because your “old football injury” is flaring up.
4. Be a Leader
If you have to set decoys yourself, let your expertise show. Sure, it’s not your spot, and you don’t know how the ducks approach, but that doesn’t mean you haven’t sized up the situation in the pre-dawn darkness. You know your buddies appreciate you telling them where to put each decoy — and why. Those are looks of appreciation, right?
5. Bring a Poorly Trained Dog
Let him move around unchecked inside the blind between hunters’ legs and loaded shotguns. Let him “socialize” with the other dogs, trying to get them to play instead of looking for birds. Let him charge into the decoys whenever he sees birds approaching. Yell to him often and loudly, especially when your buddies are calling to an incoming flock. Want to really stand out? Stand in the decoys yelling at your dog to come — “Duke, get back here! Duke!” — when the next flock appears.
6. Anticipate the Shot Caller
When someone says a flock is incoming, stand up and look around with your uncamouflaged face shining like a signal mirror to a rescue plane. Congratulate yourself for just rescuing that flock from a deadly barrage. If the birds ignore your warnings and come in for the landing, spring into action before everyone else. This is especially important when birds are coming in on your side and you’re the only one with a shot. Emptying your shotgun without touching a feather only heightens the enthusiasm.
7. Widen Your Shooting Lane to Include the Full Spread
Don’t worry about limiting your shots to between 10 and 2 o’clock. It’s every man for himself, isn’t it? Make sure you get a crack at those close birds, even if they’re just off your buddy’s muzzle.
8. Ring Their Bell
Shoot when your muzzle is over or near someone’s head. That’s especially easy when you’re following up on two missed shots and swing over the blind to send a Hail Mary after a rapidly departing bird. You’ll likely get the jump on your friend for the next shot, since he’ll be curled in the bottom of the blind, hands clapped over his ears.
9. Disregard All Firearm Safety Rules
Load and reload your shotgun with the muzzle in the blind. Wave the loaded gun around while showing off its nifty engraving. Also, balance it precariously against the wall (who needs gun holders?) for easy access. Don’t worry if you occasionally kick it or bump it while reaching for a dropped glove.
10. Shoot Over the Dogs
Lob shot over any and all dogs that are making retrieves in the decoys or searching for birds in cattails on the edge of the pond. Blaze away without regard for their safety. If you’re looking for a challenge, be sure to shoot while hunters are rearranging decoys or signaling to their dogs. Or worse, shoot at wounded birds on the water or ground when dogs or hunters are out. Don’t forget to shoot wounded birds in the decoys, too. Be sure to ask, “Why is that decoy listing starboard? Shouldn’t someone go out and get it?”
11. Call Louder and More Often Than Your Hunting Partners
Really show them your range and ability, and then take credit for any flocks that come in. (“I turned ‘em.”) And — this is important — always point out that a high passing flock “gave you a look” when you throw that hail call at them.
12. Be a One-Upper
When stories start making the rounds as you’re waiting for the next flight, be ready with one that’s a little better than the guy talking. If his dog retrieved 10 birds the previous week, yours retrieved 15. If he shot five ducks with five shots, you went five for four. If he saw a 12-point buck, you saw a 14-pointer. You get the idea. Use your imagination — literally.
13. Stay Connected
Check in at the office or home often, and monitor your cell phone for hilarious cat videos (played at max volume) that you can share while others scan the sky.
14. Claim Your Hits Before the Birds are Even Retrieved
“Boy, did you see how I nailed that first one and then swung over and nailed that one on your side and then that other one way over there? There’s a leg band on one? Yeah, that’s mine. I saw it gleaming in the sun as I shot.” Just remember not to claim your birds when it’s time to clean them.