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Bourjaily: Party Limits
My friend M.D. called me a few nights ago to say he had permission to hunt a field full of geese and did I want to come hunt? I was already leaning toward “yes” when he delivered the clincher: “You can sleep in. They’ve been flying about 9:30 so if we leave my house by a little after 8:00 that’s plenty of time.”
In the morning I drove to M.D.’s house. We hiked two blinds and 11 full-body decoys into the field and had a great time, even though there was something about our little spread the geese didn’t like. A few flared outright, most slid off just out of range, but one flock worked close enough that I was able to kill a bird.
A few minutes later, three locked up and sailed into the decoys on M.D.’s side. I didn’t want to shoot over his head and deafen him, so I watched while he shot a double, then swung on the third and lowered his gun. Our bag limit is two and he wasn’t going to shoot my second bird for me. I never did kill a second goose, but I appreciated M.D.’s gesture, which is increasingly rare in the field.
Shooting party limits is the accepted practice among waterfowlers these days. The idea is to shoot out as fast as possible so you can: a.) get in and out of the field quickly so the birds will keep using it, b.) brag about how fast your party limited, c.) post pictures of dead birds on the Internet. Everyone shoots at everything, someone keeps a running body count, and when the group reaches their limit, the shooting stops. Then people start giving away birds because no one really wants to clean the ducks and geese they were so eager to shoot a little while ago. A lot of pheasant hunts run this way, too. I hate it. I like a leisurely hunt where everyone has a chance to shoot at their own pace, with their own timing, without having to worry that someone will shoot their birds out from under them.
I won’t shoot anyone else’s birds, nor do I want my birds shot for me. If I do limit before everyone else, I either unload my gun or shoot backup on cripples. Anyone else do the same, or are M.D. and I a minority of two?