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Shooting Short of Your Limit: Sometimes Restraint Feels Good

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December 19, 2012

Shooting Short of Your Limit: Sometimes Restraint Feels Good

By Phil Bourjaily

Yesterday I did something I never would have imagined doing even a few years ago: I stopped one pheasant short of a limit. Five minutes out of the car a rooster flushed at my feet and I shot it. About 10 minutes after that Jed pointed another. Since the landowner lets me hunt this farm a lot and he hunts himself from time to time, I decided two birds was enough even though the law allows a third. Any bird I didn’t shoot was one he or I could chase on another day.

It wouldn’t have been fair to Jed to put him up after 15 minutes so we hunted the rest of the farm. I told myself I would shoot another rooster only as a reward for a perfect point. We found a covey of quail, which I never shoot on this place. Jed pointed a single and I shot behind it so he would know quail are something we’re interested in.

We got our chance at a third rooster a little while after. It wasn’t the point I wanted but it was a good piece of dogwork and I had the pheasant dead to rights. I didn’t raise my gun and didn’t feel the least bit of regret in not shooting.

On the one hand, restraint feels good. On the other, I hate to think I am on the slippery slope to losing my fire for hunting. My dad did.

Then I think about one of my gunwriting colleagues. He’s about 20 years my senior, has hunted all over the world. He has done more bird hunting and waterfowling than anyone I know—he’s been to Argentina 50 or 60 times, for instance*—but for him every hunt is still as exciting as his first. It’s typical to see him make an incredible shot then say, “That’s it. I’m unloading my gun. If I don’t shoot another duck I’ve had a great day.”

Look over a few minutes later and you’ll see him stuffing shells into the magazine, eyes on the horizon, watching for more birds.

That’s how I want to get old.

*Okay, it’s Nick Sisley.

Comments (22)

Top Rated
All Comments
from DSMbirddog wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

Just because you showed some restraint doesn't mean you are losing your passion. I'm glad you let the dog work though. That's almost as much fun.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jim in nc wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

Off topic, but: this is a gun blog; how about some comment on the Shootings in Conn?

-5 Good Comment? | | Report
from Double D wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

Oh yeah, Phil. I shoot behind birds all the time just to keep my dog honest. Or that's my excuse too.

On a serious note, three times this waterfowl season friends and/or I have called it a day a bird shy of the limit without much regret. Maybe we are all getting soft.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from clinchknot wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

I do that all the time from an energy standpt., both for me, and my "ol Black Mutt. Wears us out hunting much of the day, and couldn't make it out the next day. Got a full bag yesterday by my limits..2 huns, jumping a covey, and managing to bag one on each covey flush. Two long shots made as these birds are very wary in the late season flushing well out ahead. My young lab made a super retrieve on a wounded bird, and went on point giving me a chance to get ready, and even be able to take a shot. Very happy team of hunters getting 2 huns when the limit is 8 !!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sarge01 wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

I talk about this very thing alot in my Hunter Education classes. Just because they give a number in the hunting and fishing regs that says what the limit is dosen't mean we are a failure if we don't kill that number everytime we go into the woods. I do this alot of the time on deer also. If we can only eat so much then I don't shoot the limit because we can't use it. If I don't shoot it it will be there another day if not for me maybe for someone else, and that is where people get in trouble. They are afraid if they don't kill something someone else will. I hope that is not a sign of getting old or I have been getting old for the past 30 years. Good post Phil.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckstopper wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

Jim in NC
Lets save the rants until after Christmas and reflect on the good things about our sport.
Good hunting and Merry Christmas to all.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from jim in nc wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

Sorry, Buckstopper; you're right. But it's just been eating me up, and I rely on these two bozos to help me sort stuff like this out. Happy holidays.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

I try to teach that same thing to any new guy I take fishing, you don't have to keep your limit of fish, you don't have to take the trophy fish....you can by all legal rights, but sometimes you owe it to yourself to "give-back" to the water that's given it up to you.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tim Platt wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

It wouldn't let me mark your comment as good jim in nc.....

I have been chomping at the bit trying to get this discussion on the table myself. I guess big brother has other plans. On the positive side the gun stores are recording record sales as Obama declares war on the 2nd Amendment.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from 99explorer wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

If you want to read comments on the shooting in Conn., visit the "Answer" section.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Anhinga wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

In my youth 'limiting out' was the goal for any game, hunted/fished. Now a 'quality hunting/fishing trip' is the key. You don't want to go home empty handed, but taking a few and leaving plenty to go back for is key for me - going 'out' as often as possible is now my goal. Also, I really enjoy seeing others that have not hunted/fished often connect. Very rewarding to get others "in the game", whether its hunting or fishing.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Marian Hogan wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

I really like this article and the writer’s unique point of view. There’s a lot of good information here.

www.everything5pounds.com

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

Taking a full limit of three roosters wasn't a big threat this year. I did get limits for three or four days during the five weeks I was in Montana. But usually the weather or my shooting was so bad that I didn't have a chance. Picked up a couple of limits courtesy of Opal, my five year old lab. One day she caught two (and I never shot one!). Most days I saw so few birds that I was happy to get just a couple. Or even one. I did have one fantastic, beautiful, windless, clear day when pheasants seemed to be behind every bush. I shot a limit and then kept letting the dogs hunt for their (and my enjoyment). It was legal to keep hunting since there were also sharpies and huns in the area. Then Opal caught another pheasant! And she killed it. I don't like taking more than my limit but I won't leave my mistakes in the field either. Needless to say, I learned a lesson that day. If you're alone and want to continue hunting with dogs after filling the bag limit, you're taking a big risk. When the bag is full it's not only time to stop shooting, it's time to get off the field.

My motto has always been: The fewer I bring home, the fewer I have to clean. And: The dogs enjoy themselves even if I don't shoot a bird. Guess we can stand to learn something from them.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sarge01 wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

Here in WV the limit on trout is 6. I used to check trout fishermen and they would have 6 trout and be fishing. They would say they were fishing for fun and were releasing the fish they caught. I told them I was sure they were going to release that 24 inch rainbow when they caught it and keep the 6 13 inch rainbows they had on the stringer. WE have to think about the results when we push the limits.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from deadeyedick wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

Alas, all of don't live in the world of the ringnecked pheasant. Getting a 2 bird limit in Ohio is a mighty feat to be put in every newspapaer in the land. My upland game animal of choice is the cottontail rabbit, and I have a pack of 5 beagles to hunt them. To me it's not the number of animals it's the expirience. At times I do not carry a gun at all. Just run my dogs for the enjoyment of a few friends. It is going to snow here for the weekend and it should make for a freat hunt

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from clinchknot wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

deadeye. I grew up in Ohio, and had excellent pheasant hunting not far south of Lake Erie. Lots of farmers welcomed us, and great cover to hunt them. I lived not that far from RESTHAVEN if you know that WMA area now. I had good duck hunting in the corn fields around there also. Never had a bird dog either. Now it is luv of my dogs as you have. Just luv to work as a team with them, and often go out, and never bag anything expecially now in the late season. I also hunted cottontails in that area, but not with dogs.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from NHshtr wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

Sounds as though passing on a limit isn't too unusual, so I doubt if the "fire" is burning out in you Phil.

But I know what you mean when the game comes easily. I know I get a feeling of taking some kind of unfair advantage of sorts. I used to have a brace of beagles and frequently hunted snowshoe hare. You know that sometimes, even with good dogs and long runs, you may never get to see a particular hare. Well, I found an area in the northwoods where they were abundant and I would not only see almost every hare that was put up, but also have a good shot. Soon whenever I went there, I would use only my .22, and many times simply watch the dogs work and wave adieu to the hare as it went by. I got a lot of satisfaction from the dog's work and that was enough. I still look forward to going out for hare(as well as grouse, turkey, and deer). No loss of the "fever" and I'm older than you!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from wisc14 wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

just like fishing, i'll keep a few fish, but i don't remember the last time i kept a limit of fish

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from clinchknot wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

And Sarge...VERY illegal. When you reach your limit, you are finished fishing!!...no now fishing for fun.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

Clinchknot: Limit of WHAT? There's usually no shortage of trash fish one can theoretically continue fishing for if limit of trout is filled.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from NW Doc wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

Thanks Phil!! Nice story, and well made point about common sense and responsibility.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from haverodwilltravel wrote 1 year 15 weeks ago

Phil, I do it all the time. Next time, if it's a bird rich area, take the first bird, then miss the next 4 or 5 and shoot #6 (or whatever works for you). Sure the dog thinks you're a lousy shot, but you are both having so much fun, who cares.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from buckstopper wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

Jim in NC
Lets save the rants until after Christmas and reflect on the good things about our sport.
Good hunting and Merry Christmas to all.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from jim in nc wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

Sorry, Buckstopper; you're right. But it's just been eating me up, and I rely on these two bozos to help me sort stuff like this out. Happy holidays.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

I try to teach that same thing to any new guy I take fishing, you don't have to keep your limit of fish, you don't have to take the trophy fish....you can by all legal rights, but sometimes you owe it to yourself to "give-back" to the water that's given it up to you.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from 99explorer wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

If you want to read comments on the shooting in Conn., visit the "Answer" section.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Anhinga wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

In my youth 'limiting out' was the goal for any game, hunted/fished. Now a 'quality hunting/fishing trip' is the key. You don't want to go home empty handed, but taking a few and leaving plenty to go back for is key for me - going 'out' as often as possible is now my goal. Also, I really enjoy seeing others that have not hunted/fished often connect. Very rewarding to get others "in the game", whether its hunting or fishing.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from DSMbirddog wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

Just because you showed some restraint doesn't mean you are losing your passion. I'm glad you let the dog work though. That's almost as much fun.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sarge01 wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

I talk about this very thing alot in my Hunter Education classes. Just because they give a number in the hunting and fishing regs that says what the limit is dosen't mean we are a failure if we don't kill that number everytime we go into the woods. I do this alot of the time on deer also. If we can only eat so much then I don't shoot the limit because we can't use it. If I don't shoot it it will be there another day if not for me maybe for someone else, and that is where people get in trouble. They are afraid if they don't kill something someone else will. I hope that is not a sign of getting old or I have been getting old for the past 30 years. Good post Phil.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

Taking a full limit of three roosters wasn't a big threat this year. I did get limits for three or four days during the five weeks I was in Montana. But usually the weather or my shooting was so bad that I didn't have a chance. Picked up a couple of limits courtesy of Opal, my five year old lab. One day she caught two (and I never shot one!). Most days I saw so few birds that I was happy to get just a couple. Or even one. I did have one fantastic, beautiful, windless, clear day when pheasants seemed to be behind every bush. I shot a limit and then kept letting the dogs hunt for their (and my enjoyment). It was legal to keep hunting since there were also sharpies and huns in the area. Then Opal caught another pheasant! And she killed it. I don't like taking more than my limit but I won't leave my mistakes in the field either. Needless to say, I learned a lesson that day. If you're alone and want to continue hunting with dogs after filling the bag limit, you're taking a big risk. When the bag is full it's not only time to stop shooting, it's time to get off the field.

My motto has always been: The fewer I bring home, the fewer I have to clean. And: The dogs enjoy themselves even if I don't shoot a bird. Guess we can stand to learn something from them.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sarge01 wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

Here in WV the limit on trout is 6. I used to check trout fishermen and they would have 6 trout and be fishing. They would say they were fishing for fun and were releasing the fish they caught. I told them I was sure they were going to release that 24 inch rainbow when they caught it and keep the 6 13 inch rainbows they had on the stringer. WE have to think about the results when we push the limits.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from deadeyedick wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

Alas, all of don't live in the world of the ringnecked pheasant. Getting a 2 bird limit in Ohio is a mighty feat to be put in every newspapaer in the land. My upland game animal of choice is the cottontail rabbit, and I have a pack of 5 beagles to hunt them. To me it's not the number of animals it's the expirience. At times I do not carry a gun at all. Just run my dogs for the enjoyment of a few friends. It is going to snow here for the weekend and it should make for a freat hunt

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from NHshtr wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

Sounds as though passing on a limit isn't too unusual, so I doubt if the "fire" is burning out in you Phil.

But I know what you mean when the game comes easily. I know I get a feeling of taking some kind of unfair advantage of sorts. I used to have a brace of beagles and frequently hunted snowshoe hare. You know that sometimes, even with good dogs and long runs, you may never get to see a particular hare. Well, I found an area in the northwoods where they were abundant and I would not only see almost every hare that was put up, but also have a good shot. Soon whenever I went there, I would use only my .22, and many times simply watch the dogs work and wave adieu to the hare as it went by. I got a lot of satisfaction from the dog's work and that was enough. I still look forward to going out for hare(as well as grouse, turkey, and deer). No loss of the "fever" and I'm older than you!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

Clinchknot: Limit of WHAT? There's usually no shortage of trash fish one can theoretically continue fishing for if limit of trout is filled.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Double D wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

Oh yeah, Phil. I shoot behind birds all the time just to keep my dog honest. Or that's my excuse too.

On a serious note, three times this waterfowl season friends and/or I have called it a day a bird shy of the limit without much regret. Maybe we are all getting soft.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from clinchknot wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

I do that all the time from an energy standpt., both for me, and my "ol Black Mutt. Wears us out hunting much of the day, and couldn't make it out the next day. Got a full bag yesterday by my limits..2 huns, jumping a covey, and managing to bag one on each covey flush. Two long shots made as these birds are very wary in the late season flushing well out ahead. My young lab made a super retrieve on a wounded bird, and went on point giving me a chance to get ready, and even be able to take a shot. Very happy team of hunters getting 2 huns when the limit is 8 !!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tim Platt wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

It wouldn't let me mark your comment as good jim in nc.....

I have been chomping at the bit trying to get this discussion on the table myself. I guess big brother has other plans. On the positive side the gun stores are recording record sales as Obama declares war on the 2nd Amendment.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Marian Hogan wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

I really like this article and the writer’s unique point of view. There’s a lot of good information here.

www.everything5pounds.com

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from clinchknot wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

deadeye. I grew up in Ohio, and had excellent pheasant hunting not far south of Lake Erie. Lots of farmers welcomed us, and great cover to hunt them. I lived not that far from RESTHAVEN if you know that WMA area now. I had good duck hunting in the corn fields around there also. Never had a bird dog either. Now it is luv of my dogs as you have. Just luv to work as a team with them, and often go out, and never bag anything expecially now in the late season. I also hunted cottontails in that area, but not with dogs.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from wisc14 wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

just like fishing, i'll keep a few fish, but i don't remember the last time i kept a limit of fish

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from clinchknot wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

And Sarge...VERY illegal. When you reach your limit, you are finished fishing!!...no now fishing for fun.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from NW Doc wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

Thanks Phil!! Nice story, and well made point about common sense and responsibility.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from haverodwilltravel wrote 1 year 15 weeks ago

Phil, I do it all the time. Next time, if it's a bird rich area, take the first bird, then miss the next 4 or 5 and shoot #6 (or whatever works for you). Sure the dog thinks you're a lousy shot, but you are both having so much fun, who cares.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jim in nc wrote 1 year 16 weeks ago

Off topic, but: this is a gun blog; how about some comment on the Shootings in Conn?

-5 Good Comment? | | Report

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