Friday, February 10, 2012

Scenes from the Marsh: The Shot

If you follow this blog, or my Twitter feed or any other medium I use to communicate, you know I shot like absolute crap for most of this duck season. My confidence in shreds, there were days I left the marsh early because I just couldn't take the epic suckage, and days I stayed to the end, only to be rewarded with more bad shooting right up until sunset.

But for the last two weekends of the season, I rallied. I finally started shooting like I had during the previous season. Relief coursed through my veins. It was intoxicating. And it made me shoot even better.

On the last day of the season, I made what had to be the best shot of my life. Read more...
Closing day was slow from the first minute of shoot time. In sunny and windless skies, the birds just weren't moving around much. The ducks were tired. The hunters were tired. We were all ready for it to be over.

On days like that, we tend to gather periodically in our tule patches: We grab snacks, take drinks of our sodas and yak casually.

This is, of course, precisely when ducks strike.

So I was standing there around noon, talking to Monique and Charlie, my gun resting on my little decoy boat, when out of the corner of my eye, I caught it: a duck barreling in from the south, low and already close enough to shoot.

Normally when ducks are coming in, we whisper to each other: "Single from the west, high." "Five from the east, low." This gets everyone's eyes on the birds so we can be ready if they come our way.

But with this duck, there was no time for that. I grabbed my gun, wheeled back to face south, raised my gun - out of time, out of time, out of time - and pulled the trigger. The butt was a good six inches from my left shoulder. The comb was nowhere near my face.


That duck dropped, stone dead.

"OHMYGODDIDYOUSEETHAT?!?!?!?" I shouted to, oh, everyone in the marsh.

I had to plow through 15 yards of thick mush grass to get to her, but there was no rush. She was very obviously dead, floating on the water, twitching in the way only dead animals twitch.

I exclaimed again: "Did you see that? Did you see that?" But I don't think anyone actually saw the shot, because they didn't have time even to see the bird, much less watch me shoot from the hip. (OK, from the low chest, but still.)

Now, I have taken shots like that - with an unmounted gun - many, many times. When you least expect it, ducks will come out of nowhere. Usually, if you even get a chance to fire a shot, you miss by a mile, and everyone has a good laugh.

But this? Wow.

That duck - a hen spoonie - was my fifth duck of the day. My last duck of the day. My last duck of the season. And even though I'd really hoped to finish the season with a limit of seven ducks - I'd gotten seven the day before - I was perfectly satisfied to end my season on that note.

I still can't say for sure why I shot so badly for most of the season. I'm just glad that I don't have to go through the next nine months wondering what the hell's wrong with me.

And just for insurance, I'm going to get my ass to the shooting range a lot more this year. I've got to ride this wave of confidence while it lasts.

© Holly A. Heyser 2012


Anonymous said...

Total zen. That's all I'm saying.


Holly Heyser said...

Or as one person said by email, "The Force was with you."

I hope I always have the sense to savor such shots.

Mark Coleman said...

Quick shot means no time for your brain to get in the way. Happens to me all the time. Just don't ask me how to get your brain out of the way on the long, passing shots...I haven't figured it out either.

Holly Heyser said...

My brain is far less irritating on the pass shots - where it really kills me is on the birds coming straight at me or going straight away - I can botch that shot EVERY TIME.

Phillip said...

Bad shooting... it just is. I've decided that. I'm no expert wingshooter. Sometimes I rock 'em with every impossible shot. And sometimes I go through my 25 shells with barely a feather to show. It just is.

But it sure is cool when things seem to come together. It could be that hip shot, or the crazy, twisted angle that hurts for a week afterward. It feels so good, regardless.

All that aside... when are we going to reschedule the sporting clays we planned to shoot this past summer? I'm up. Kat's even up. Let's make it happen!

Holly Heyser said...

Are you in Cali? Weekend after this would be good for me. This weekend I'm chillin'. OK, maybe just a little skeet...

Galen Geer said...

I have had to train myself to overcome the constantly changing glasses. I'll be going to the range when it gets warmer and burning up a lot of powder.

Marian Ann Love said...

I didn't see that Holly but read that! It does make you feel great and sending my congrats! Keep on keeping on! :)

Holly Heyser said...

P.S. to Phillip: I think the more I shoot, the more I will accept the "just is" thing. But for now, I have a huge fear of backsliding - it was so hard to get to this place, and the thought of being yanked away is upsetting.

I'm actually OK with having bad days. I know that happens to everyone.

But having a bad season was pretty awful, and I'm going to try really hard to avoid that in the future.

Galen: Thankfully I haven't had that problem yet. I started wearing glasses into the field this season, but they're bifocals (progressives, actually). My distance vision is almost 20-20, but with the glasses, I can see what I'm doing putting out decoys without messing up my distance vision.

When the season started, I wondered if it was the glasses, so I stopped wearing them once we were all set up. Obviously, that didn't do the trick.

Marian: Thank you! I'm definitely going to keep on truckin' and hope for the best.

Phillip said...

Heya, Holly. I'm in TX for two more weeks, so it'll have to be after that. Actually, I'm trying to spend as much time here as I can over the coming months. But when I am back in Cali, I'd definitely like to try to get together. Or maybe you can make it down with Hank this spring, if we can pull a hunt together? He wants to shoot a javelina, and I've got all these agarita bushes that should be popping out the berries by late spring.

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