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The average shot fires 5-7 shots per dove and about 6 per duck in the bag according to every study I have ever seen quoted.

That brings up the question: what is a good shot? I have hunted with a lot of good shots and few great ones, and I have always believed the rule of thumb that a good shot kills one bird for every three shells fired. I am a pretty good – not great but pretty good – field shot. (I should be given that my job is shooting things and writing about it.) I bring myself into this discussion only because this year I have been chosen to participate in a USFWS survey that requires me to record the number of doves I have shot and the number of doves I knock down and don’t retrieve, so I have an accurate count.

Since I already have to count birds, I have been keeping track of shells fired out of curiosity. So far this year I have shot 86 doves and two pigeons with the expenditure of 254 shells. That is an average of 2.88 shells per bird, and I’ll take it. It includes one very good day in the field when I shot a 15-bird limit with 23 shells as well as the rainy evening I shot 3 doves with 21 shells as they came zooming in by the flock to a roost in Missouri. Actually if you throw out those two hunts as outliers, I am still right at one bird per three shells for the year.

I try to be careful with the shots I choose. I am not trying to protect my average but to keep my crippling losses to a minimum. I want doves close, and I want to shoot them so they fall where I can easily retrieve them. Yesterday, however, hunting a very bare cut cornfield where birds were easy to find and knowing we had a Lab on hand in case I screwed up, I loosened up on my shot selection. I missed a lot, made some long shots and generally had a blast ruining my bird-to-shell ratio (eight doves and a pigeon with 45 shots). And, I lost no doves and never needed the dog’s help. While my bird-to-shell average is sort of fun to track, what I am proud of is that I have had only two doves hit the ground that I couldn’t retrieve this year. That, I suspect, is well above average and a topic for a more serious post on another occasion.

Anyway during yesterday’s hunt as I blazed away happily I was reminded of something Winchester’s Mike Jordan, one of the great shots I have hunted with, said once when I asked him about shooting a limit of doves inside a box (a limit with 25 shells or less): “Who cares? Shooting your gun is fun. Why brag about all the fun you didn’t have?”

Exactly. Of course, Mike worked for an ammunition company. Even so, he had a point.