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May 27, 2008

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Bourjaily on Ducking and Covering

The other day I was talking to John Clouse, who runs Ballistic Specialties in Batesville, AR. Clouse is a fine Beretta doctor, and he was diagnosing my balky 391 when somehow the subject turned to Clouse’s nose. Several years ago on a crow hunt, Clouse stoned a bird a ridiculously high distance in the air. He took his eye off the falling crow to exchange high fives with his hunting buddy. When he looked back, the crow hit him in the face, breaking his nose.

I saw a similar accident in Saskatchewan. We were hunting geese in a pea field, leaning against round bales of straw. My friend Tom folded a goose, found a second bird and was about to shoot it when the first one hit him square in the side of the head. When I looked over, Tom was on his hands and knees ten yards from the bale. A ten pound goose falling from 30 yards up could probably kill you if it hit you just right. At the time, Tom thought he had been shot. A year after the hunt he had so many headaches and so much neck pain he eventually had to have surgery. 

Tom blamed me (it wasn’t me, I missed, then my gun jammed) for years, but he realizes now he did this to himself. Ever since that day, whenever I hunt geese I shoot one, then look to make sure I know where all the falling birds are before I look for a second. Maybe I’m being too cautious – maybe those were the only two times in the history of hunting that falling birds hit people, but I doubt it. Has anybody out there ever seen a bird hit someone?


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I was hunting crows and pigeons out of a blind next to dairy. There were 3 of us in the blind and it was snowing like mad. 4 or 5 pigeons were hauling the mail right at us when I folded the one in front. It only took a split second but it was like watching in slow-motion. The bird looked like a soft ball on fire, it hit the guy next to me square in the chest with a thud! It knocked Mike flat on his butt and left a huge bruise. Next time we went hunting Mike had his motorcycle helmet in his gear bag!!! We had a good laugh out of that one.

Dave Petzal

I know of a fellow who lost a shot duck in the sun and was hit directly on top of the head. It damaged his spine so badly that he was partly crippled in one leg for the rest of his life.


Being conked in the noggin by a recently deceased bird is a sobering event. When I was 20 years old I had a similar experience. I was hunting ducks in flooded timber. A pair of mallards came in and offered a layup shot at 25 yards. I took out the first bird and swung onto the second, just as I fired the second round the lights went out! I woke up spitting swamp water with my hunting buddy holding me by the shirt collar. That 2.5 pound duck had hit me in the left temple knocking me off my feet and out cold. My buddy said it looked as if my neck was broken and he was scared gray!

I cycled all the parts and things seemed in working order. Since the ducks were coming in steady we fished out my old A5 Browning, poured out the water, checked the bore for mud and in the fashion of two, 20 year old boys continued our hunt.

Afterwards,my buddy insisted that he would take me to our college infirmary to be checked out by the doctor. He reported that I had a mild concussion and whiplash, but would pull through.

The doctor was a hunter himself and thought the whole episode amusing. He reported that he had been wacked by a dove once and was glad it only weighed a few ounces. He also suggested that I might consider ducking the next duck...


My friend was shooting next to me on a mixed driven shoot when a pair of mallard came over high & fast, being a good shot Bob kiiled the Drake with the lsft barrel, kept swinging & shot the duck with the right barrel & before the second reached the ground was layed out cold by the drake hitting in the side of the head. Fortunately this was in full view of the line of guns which [once we confirmed Bob had survived reasonably intact] lead to a lot of laughter over lunch. As we said, it was a good job it didn't hit him anywhere important.

Mike Diehl

Are hard hats gonna become standard fowling gear?

Del in KS

When I was a kid my older brother folded a dove and it hit him on the thigh as he was swinging on another bird. He never said anything about being hurt. Always was a tough old cuss.

Del in KS

I've never been hit by a falling bird but have bagged two ducks,doves and quail with one shot several times. Once got 3 greenheads with one shot. Try this, bag 2 with one shot when only 2 come in. Done that twice. Its not that hard if you pay attention and time your shot.

Ralph the Rifleman

Never been hit by falling bird, but I had taken out a nice drake flying directly over me;at the shot his wings folded and he dropped about 2 short paces in front of me. I didn't think about him landing on me?


I shot a dove that landed on a hunting buddy a few years back.

He was a bit pi$$ed off to say the least. As for me, once I found out he was fine, I couldn't stop laughing!


Dick Mcplenty

Never been hit by a shot bird,but I have smacked blackbirds while on a motorcycle.Was wearing a t shirt the first time and ended up with a welt that resembled the outline of a bird,the legs and head left unmistakeable outlines.


I came REAL CLOSE to getting slammed by a 15 pound Canada goose this past season...could not see it falling out of the sky due to the bill on my baseball cap blocking the view of it.

When it got to head level, it was travelling so fast that it was simply a split second blur in the little window of vision I had between the bill of my cap and the water at my feet.

POW!!! It exploded at my feet, about 6 inches away from my left boot.

We were hunting on rocks, and if that goose had hit me in the head, it would have been really, really bad...I shudder to think of how bad exactly...


I grew up goose hunting close to Hutchinson, MN where there are a lot of geese. You would hear about 1 or 2 guys every year getting hit by a falling goose in the area. Never witnessed it myself, but been very close quite a few times.

Milton T. Burton

No geese, but I once bet over to pick up a quail I had killed. It was about two feet past one that was holding tight. The live bird decided to flush. Of course, I didn't see it, and it hit me square in the face with its wings beating ninety-to-nothing. Broke my glasses and scared me half to death.

Jim in Mo.

I didn't think this was an uncommon event in the dove fields. Find a field with a lone tree in it and position yourself on the eastern side in the evening in the shade. The doves will use that tree as a landmark as they cross the field and shooting them head on is guaranteed. Along with birds dropping on or around you.


Nope. I almost wish they'd fall closer. I do watch them after I hit them, but that's mostly so as to aid recovery. I do most of my bird hunting in the mountains of the Nevada desert, without dogs, and usually when I hit a bird I have to watch where it lands closely so I can find it amongst the sage and rabbit brush.


Gamebirds, and waterfowl in particular, are obviously dangerous game. Leave the shotguns at home, and go a-fowling with double rifles in .375 H & H.

I've never been hit by a shot bird, but I was thumped in the back of the head by an owl last deer season. His wings wrapped around my face, and then he was gone before I knew what had happened. Pity the incident wasn't videotaped. I'm certain I came up with some new dance moves that would make me a fortune on the hip-hop circuit.

Bernie Kuntz

Seven or eight years ago an elderly retired fishery biologist(now deceased) and I were hunting greater Canadas along the Yellowstone River near Forsyth, MT. At one point a sizable flock of geese flushed off the river and looked like they would present a shot as we were hidden in an irrigation ditch. Indeed they did!I fired a shot, killed a goose, was swinging on a second bird when I noticed the first goose rocketing toward me. I took two steps, swung again and killed a second honker. The first goose slammed to the ground a couple feet from me. If I hadn't moved that first honker would have crashed into me and certainly caused serious injury. These birds average 11-13 pounds.


My dad and I were duck hunting one day and he caught a canvasback that he had shot. About a week later we had a dead duck fall on the blind and break the roof. It wasn't a real substantial roof.

It happens more often than you think, especially on high incoming birds.

Del in KS

A 15 pound goose? La Cygne KS has a local flock of giant Canada geese. one of the Employees told me that out of thousands weighed the largest bird went 13 pounds.
A 15 pounder is a monster goose.

Sunday morning at 0230 I nearly hit a large buck in the center lane of I-35 in the middle of Overland Park, KS. There are no woods at all in that area. Someone had already broke his back and he was pawing around with his front legs. He clearly had large velvet antlers starting to grow.


Never been hit by a bird dead or alive but have had some unusual experiences. Once a buddy shot a high flying dove which we both watched tumble down toward us. We were about 4 feet apart when it landed between us with a reasonable thud given the weight of the bird. Ghost birds...I once was pulling breasts from a dozen doves that were in my hunting vest. One fluttered as I touched it so not finding any wound I set it on a bush next to me. Pretty soon it give itself a little shake of the feathers and flew away. A guy that works for me had a pheasant "come alive" in his hunting vest, find its way out and made an escape. He shot at it and missed.
Bernie Kuntz: my son shot a Greater Canadian outside of Hysham year before last and tossed it into the pile of geese at his feet. About 10 minutes later it stood up and hauled butt down the ditch we were using as a blind. My son tried to run it down since it did not fly and finally had to shoot it again.
Suicidal bird...A friend and I were hunting bobwhites down south. Charlie missed a rather large bird which suddenly came to a stop mid-air and stayed there. Upon closer examination we detected that it had flown into a barbed wire fence and impaled itself on one of the barbs. It didn't have a shot in it, talk about bad luck.

Trae B.

My deddy caught a bird that he shot. It was flyin towards him and he shot it and watched it fall and it got close enough that he just stuck his arm out and caught it. Funny part is a bunch of his buddies saw him do it so the rest of the day he was joking and braggin that he found it easier not to have to go after them after he shot em.

Del in KS

My duck hunting career did not start until the late 90's. The first year I bagged (and ate) a large mature Drake Canvasback. Did not know they are rare around here. Nobody I know has ever shot one. Wish I had stuffed that one he was a beauty. He nearly fell on me too.

Jim in Mo.

Some time ago a co-worker had a nasty wound on his index finger and I asked Bob what happened. He said he was squirrel hunting and reached into his vest to retrieve/clean squirrels and a 'live' one bit the heck out of him!

Kimbo Slice

I was on a hot barrel eared dove shoot in Cordoba two years ago when the guy next to me shot a Condor. Those things are HUGE! When it crashed I was glad I was 30 yards away!


I was once playing golf with a guy who clobbered a black bird out of mid flight with a golf ball. We kidded him the rest of the day about getting a " Birdie"

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