Who doesn’t like to say “I shot my limit?” Surveys I’ve read suggest hunters are satisfied with their experience when...
Who doesn’t like to say “I shot my limit?”
Surveys I’ve read suggest hunters are satisfied with their experience when they bag a limit, regardless of how many birds a limit consists of. Some years ago our DNR, in a stroke of genius, made the limit for our youth pheasant weekend one bird a day instead of the usual three. That way you can take a kid out, kill a bird in about an hour and be done. The hunt ends quickly, while the young hunter is still having fun, and it’s a 100% success.
While I, like anybody else, love coming home early with a limit, the more I do this, the less I care about shooting all the birds the law allows. Our dove limit is 15. I’ve shot a lot of limits in the few years we have had a dove season, but on some of my most memorable hunts I’ve only shot 8 or 9 birds.
And, I would rather shoot a few birds less than a limit and not cripple any than shoot a limit and lose a bird. Some hunters count lost birds against their limits, which is admirable, although I never have. It’s something to aspire to, I guess.
For a lot of hunters, limiting is competitive. Shooting a limit isn’t enough. If someone shoots out in half an hour, you can one-up them if you shot out in 25 minutes. If their crew shot a six man limit, you can beat them with a seven-man limit, all of which misses the point that hunt quality can’t be measured by kill quantity.
Last Monday afternoon I got out for an afternoon teal hunt and lucked into a big migration day. I saw thousands of ducks, and several flocks numbering in the hundreds. One of those flocks dropped into my decoys, and I had the thrill of seeing 200 blue winged teal try to land about 15 yards from my sparse little willow blind. I probably could have killed a limit with one shot by picking a duck in the middle of the bunch, and raining out a few collateral teal, but I contented myself with picking off the last duck in line.
If I had been less conservative with my shots or if I wanted to stay longer I could have filled a six-duck limit and in younger years I probably would have done just that. As it was, I had four when I decided to quit and had no regrets about stopping short of a limit at all. It was one of best duck hunts I have been on in a long time. The day reminded me of what Field & Stream’s former conservation editor George Reiger used to say. He wrote about waterfowling but I think the sentiment applies to all bird hunting: “Hunters want the opportunity to see lots of birds and take a few.”
And, if “a few” means you shot less than a limit, it doesn’t really matter much.