If you were to talk with most bird hunters on how they started hunting they would usually talk of getting under the birds. Perhaps they saw a bunch of resting birds on a body of water and after figuring the wind direction tried to hit the birds as they took off. Those big honkers are amazing flyers but when they are just lifting off or beating down to land are vulnerable. Nothing is greater than seeing those flying turkeys panic as they try frantically to gain elevation from hunters on the ground. Having a few birds at your feet at the end of the day is a great reward, especially if you had to work hard for them.
I define pass shooting as shooting birds as they are flying low over you as they take off, attempting to land, or in transit to another location. Unlike decoying birds, these flyers are not coming directly to you or trying to land in your spread. My Uncle Ken was a master at watching the directions of how the birds landed and how they would usually take off. All a guy had to do is just put yourself in their flight path. Simple right? WRONG! Birds will take off into the wind and follow a path to their destination but if their destination changes or the wind shifts, those birds may skirt your location and you have to watch them fly past. But when the stars align themselves a real smack down ensues!
You don’t NEED decoys to hunt, one just needs to get out and hunt and get after them! I have learnt more about birds by watching them fly past me than sitting on the couch pounding down brews. Pass-shooting is an important component of hunting. If learnt well the pass-shooter can add a few extra birds to the daily kill total.
Here are some examples. When we hunt in Saskatchewan on my Aunt’s properties near Marengo, I watch the large slough SE of the farm closely. If I know that birds were on that body of water I will tend to want to hunt those birds as they come back to water after their feed. This season Lyle S. and myself were hunting with a decoy spread and around 10am we could tell that the decoy spread we were hunting with was done sucking in the birds, the masses of geese were feeding on another field and were soon going back to roost. Shooting off a resting area isn’t a smart idea if one plans on hunting the area the next few days but since this was our last morning we decided to hit them as they came back to water. Quick like bunnies, we grabbed a few dozen silo-sock decoys from our spread, grabbed our guns and an extra box of ammo and concealed ourselves in the tall grass and put our decoys on the shore and into the water a bit. We were upwind of the birds, Lyle and myself separated a 100 yards or so and waited for them to come back. Not massive numbers but we got our specklebelly limit right there on the water.
A few days previous Warren, Lyle and myself shot a few extra birds as they came back to the slough to round out the limit. Notice the sandhill cranes, lesser Canada, Snow Geese and Specklebellies.
On one of our Saskatchewan Smackdown days Oct. 2014, we had a decent day with a nice pile of dead birds on the ground. Around 10am Andy S. noticed birds flying over a rock pile about 1 km away and ran out to get under those birds. Davey and myself saw birds landing on a slough and we wanted to get a few on that slough so we headed that way at that time as well. Lyle and Rusty guarded the spread. Davey and me let a bunch of birds land on the water 15 yards away from where we were hiding. We had our Speck limit already so we were holding off on shooting until a nice group of snows came in. We were able to drop a nice blue phase and 2 adult whites. Andy was massacring some innocent snow geese and ran out of ammo since he had knocked down 8 more on that silly rock pile. Lyle and Rusty shot 3 more that visited our decoy spread. That’s 150 more birds from a little exercise and adapting to what the geese were doing. I know if my numbers are off Andy will ‘correct me’.
I took a trophy blue phase snow goose laying flat on my back as a bunch of birds flew over me at the end of the day. About a 60 yard shot. Still in the freezer awaiting my decision to have it mounted.
Warren and myself shot 8 or 9 Canadas in a canola field near Carstairs. Birds do not feed in Canola but we watched them fly fairly low over a canola field on the way to a pea-field that was within town limits. We slapped a few large Canada goose decoys on the tops of the swaths, and jumped around the field to get into shooting position. Some birds were curious and came into range for a look. Pass-shooting at it’s best.
For this upcoming fall, especially on our beautiful September evenings, will you just crash on the couch or will you try and get under a few birds? Some of my most memorable birds were the ones that I had to put a little extra work in for. Come out with me, let’s kill a few birds, beats sitting on the couch.