Here's a confession for you: Every autumn I'm known to miss a few pheasants and ducks. Okay, more than a few, but it's not my fault, really. The thrill of cackling roosters flushing underfoot or drake mallards careening to the decoys is enough to make a shotgun feel foreign in the most seasoned hands. To lose that childlike excitement may result in better wingshooting, but I doubt we'd enjoy the experience as much.
In any event, I've learned to deal with missing birds—particularly when witnesses are present—through a fail-proof coping mechanism: excuses, and lots of them. So, here are a few species-specific suggestions to help you save face this season.
Teal "They were too small and too fast."
Canvasbacks "They were too big and too fast."
Pheasants "Did that rooster's cackle sound weird to you? It threw me off."
Northern Shoveler "I really didn't want to shoot a spoonbill, but you called the shot so I went through the motions."
Quail "I was too taken aback by the beauty of that covey rise."
Mallards "Those drakes decoyed so hard that I shot over them."
Doves "My shotgun barrel is too long to catch up to these speed demons."
Ruffed Grouse "I expected the bird to weave through the trees, but instead he zig-zagged."
Geese "I waited too long looking for leg bands."
Gadwalls "You can't hardly see gray ducks against this overcast sky."
You see? It's easy. And before long you'll convince yourself—if not your buddies—that all those misses have nothing to do with your skill level.