Judging the Distance of Flying Birds
Within shotgun range it is a comparatively easy matter to judge distances along the ground, especially stationary objects or recognized dimensions. Even birds on the wing that fly low nearly always pass a tree or something else that will afford us a basis for calculations. But with birds of unknown size, padding overhead, the matter assumes different proportions.
As previously stated, in upland shooting where the birds generally rise near us, the matter of estimating distances need not concern us seriously. To be sure some shots will be missed through an incorrect lead due to badly judged flight, but such chances will not occur often enough to make a great difference in the size of the bag.
When wildfowl are in question, however, the subject is one that cannot be studied too closely. Ducks frequently maintain a line of flight so regular that striking them could present no great difficulty, if we knew ho far they were away from the gun and exactly what lead to give them. Nine misses in ten upon the marsh are caused by faulty lead, which in turn must be attributed to poor judgement of distance or speed of flight.
Expert gunners estimate the distance of their mark:
They know the kind of bird that is coming in and the size that it should appear at a given time. This makes it imperative that we should always be able to recognize the species of fowl that is approaching, be it mallard, teal, or pintail, for you cannot reckon nearness by size unless the size is well known.
They know the markings of the intended target and can approximately figure distance by observing the markings. The shooter may say that he knew the bird was within range because he/she could see the white on its cheeks or the bars on its wings.
The third method is to observe the apparent time required for the bird to pass the gun. A bird that is well out will seemingly be much longer in passing than he would if it whistled by your head.
Probably judging the distance of waterfowl by his markings is the mode most commonly practiced. It is usually very reliable, though to be sure atmospheric conditions would have an influence. In rainy or foggy weather the colors might blend when the bird was nearly on top of you. And, by the way, estimating the distance or size of the flying game in a fog is almost impossible.
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