Dave’s “Shooting Long Range: The Generational Theory,” which looked at the reasons behind the overwhelming interest in taking big game at long range, prompted me to think about whether there was a corollary in wingshooting. From what I can tell, the exact opposite is the case in wingshooting. Or at least in waterfowling, which is where you tend to find the young guns these days.
These kids – in their teens and 20s – spend a fortune on decoys, trailers, custom calls and Benellis. They put stickers all over everything; they post videos of themselves shooting ducks and geese set to heavy metal music; they have their own annoying jargon: “grinds” and “trainwrecks”; and they text constantly in the blind. (It’s all stuff I would have done at their age, too, but now that I’m a lot older than they are, I can disapprove. I will admit to texting in the blind, but only when I’m hunting alone).
All that said, the hardcore crowd among these kids are absolutely committed to getting birds as close as possible. They want them “doin’ it right” and “cupped and committed,” sometimes even “parked” in the decoys. To them, the shooting part is almost secondary. It tends to be a group effort. The birds are hanging over the decoys at 15 yards and the shots are easy. In fact, many of them are much better hunters than they are wingshots.
After the hunt, they talk about how well the birds worked. And if you take away the stickers, the heavy metal, and a mentality I find a little bloodthirsty at some times — and a little too purist at others (they sneer at pass shooting, which I enjoy) — you’ve got waterfowling done the right way. I love to watch birds backpedal over the decoys too, but I am also going to take a good shot 30-35 yards if I get it and pass shoot birds if they’re ignoring my decoys. When I hunt with these kids, I’m usually the one with the itchy trigger finger.
Why is waterfowl hunting so different for this generation than rifle hunting?
I suppose you could blame steel shot. While rifles have become more effective at long range, shotguns have become less effective.
Maybe it’s because in waterfowl hunting you can hang out with your buddies and stare at your phone, then button up and hide when the birds show. You don’t have to pay attention all the time, or sit still and be quiet for hours like you do when you hunt big game. Of course, that’s why I prefer waterfowling to big game hunting, too. It may have nothing to do with age and everything to do with attention span.