I returned to Oregon to pick up my duck boats and to have another “opener.” By lunch time my partner had 5 and I had 0. I couldn’t physically raise my shotgun fast enough, let alone follow the “butt, beak, bang!” rule. Three failed shoulder operations have left me angry and frustrated. We were parked side-by-side in the tulles in layout boats that I designed and built. Finally, a spoonbill came to my side straight at me. I was slow to get the gun properly seated on my shoulder, but it was mine! Just as I pulled the trigger, my partner shot. For God’s sake, now I had only an assist! This got me thinking of my hunting partner Bill when I was in my twenties. It was Bill who came up with a rule for a situation when one partner is obviously an inferior pass shooter.
I was the inferior partner. Bill had shot pigeons on a dairy all his life. He was unbelievably fast and accurate. It was clear to the both of us that we enjoyed each other’s company and wanted to hunt together, but it was also clear to Bill that I would never be able to compete with him. He came up with a simple, fun, fair rule. We would alternate on the first shot. The designated shooter would call the shot, including the option of passing the shot over to the other partner or picking a specific bird, if a flock was dropping into our spread. The second shooter would be able to fire as soon as the designated shooter fired. I loved this generous rule because many times I knew I was not capable of taking the shot, and I would just say, “shoot.” What I liked about this sharing was that I could take my time on an easy or moderate shot. Bill did miss shots, and I was always surprised when I pulled and the bird dropped. I always laughed when Bill missed a screaming teal that I called for him to shoot. "Well," I would say, "It's still my shot."
Like me, Bill is in his late sixties. He has had a number of strokes and had to quit hunting a number of years ago. Every year or so I call him, and we talk about old hunts and building boats together. I am going to call him and thank him for being such a great hunting partner so many years ago. I wonder if anyone else has had to deal with a partner that they liked but who just couldn’t shoot worth a damn.