Duck Hunting Tips & Tactics
Do you avoid shaving for 60 days so you can blend in the environment during a duck-hunting expedition? You do not have to lose yourself with ineffective or too strenuous tips when hunting waterfowls. The following are tried and tested tactics for a successful duck hunting outing.
Study the behavior of Waterfowls
If you have not observed the mannerisms of ducks, you are likely to fail at hunting no matter how many times you try. As a beginner, keep your hunting gear away and watch how the waterfowls socialize, feed, play and mate.
According to Real Tree, being a naturalist should be the first step for any waterfowl hunter. Successful hunters spend hours identifying water depths that most appeal to ducks. Breeding behaviour may help you deploy efficient calling tactics.
Apart from understanding what ducks do, learn why they do it. Why do they prefer staying at some regions and not others? What are their food sources? You might be surprised to note that they prefer small insects at some times of the year and seeds or grains at other times.
Learn duck hunting tips from seasoned hunters. Watch this video by Total Outdoor Programming to identify the different species of duck. Here, learn efficient camouflage tactics and appropriate placement of decoy.
Let your decoys match the look of ducks
By now, you should know that there are numerous types and species of waterfowls. Specific examples are pintail, mallard, widgeon and gadwall. In the learning step described above, know which types of ducks love staying together.
Place real-size duck decoys strategically around the specific areas where each type of waterfowl stays. Examples of strategic spots are sand bars, shallows, water edges, logs, ice patches, raised branches and frozen shorelines.
Develop decoys that mimic the natural floating and bouncing characteristics of waterfowls. If a decoy assumes a strange posture, ducks are easily distracted and could fly away. Whatever you do, let the scene, sights and sound be as natural as possible.
Timings of calls are just as important as the calls themselves
To know how ducks call at each other, spend time out there in different times of the day and different seasons of the year. The sounds of their calls depend on the reason they are calling. Do they do it to alert others of danger or is it a call to mate?
Note that not all ducks sound the same when performing a particular call such as calling their young ones to feed. Some ducks quack for no reason at all. Learning the calling patterns will help you understand the most appropriate time to call when hunting.
Most duck hunters suggest that it is best to call them just when they are about to leave a certain area. When doing so, avoid the temptation of overcalling that comes with desperation. As long as you convince one bird to turn towards you, the rest will follow.
Camouflage yourself and equipment well
Duck are shrewd birds and will spot the smallest difference in their natural habitat. Try to camouflage yourself and your hunting gear so well that they do not notice. Learn the colours and appearance of the grounds where they live, hunt, mate, play and hide from predators.
Assemble your blinds using local materials such as crop stalks, reeds, weeds and branches from nearby vegetation. Gather ice chunks and place them carefully at the centre of your blinds. Waterfowls will only land on terrains that resemble their actual surroundings.
According to Game and Fishing Mag, building a large structure in front of ducks may sometimes look unnatural and intimidating. If that is the case, consider blinding from behind the birds or choose a spot where you blend in your own shadow.
Start your camouflage with meticulous body paint especially on your hands, face and any other visible body part. Cover your boat with appropriate camo netting. To complete your makeover, touch surfaces with reeds, stalks, riverine bush and other aquatic vegetation.
Your movements should be so meticulous that they will not scare the birds away before you get into a shooting position. Avoid making large or noticeable ripples in the water or bumping into rocks, logs and dead matter.
Learn your shotgun mechanisms well
How good are you at operating your shotgun and other shooting apparatus? The saying ‘practice makes perfect’ perhaps applies to waterfowl shooting more than it does elsewhere. Ensure you can fire your shotgun and squeeze in another round before the target disappears.
Before setting out to the wild, a thorough practice at home is essential. Place decoys at strategic positions of varying distances and practice shooting. Practice with targets moving in different directions at varying speeds.
Know how to use your protective gear appropriately. Do you find the sound of firing at ducks unpleasant? Wear earmuffs to muzzle the otherwise distracting sound. Other essential items include tough boots, helmets and first aid kits just in case of occasional accidents.
When not hunting, keep your shotgun in its appropriate safe. Leaving it exposed to the elements could effectively hamper your next hunting expedition. Service your boat appropriately and maintain calling equipment, decoys, blinds and other hunting gear well.
Hunt with the wind behind you
Position the decoys on the edge of the shooting range so that the first shot will lead them to the middle of the range. Know that most birds will fly downwind when they sense danger or when that danger triggers a warning.
Place your spread in a position where ducks decoy in a relatively crossing angle to the blind. This causes blinds to be less noticeable to ducks and intuitively fly into the blind. This actually makes your second or third shots just as close to their targets as the first ones.
Avoid hunting with the wind at your back because this strategy has many drawbacks. First, ducks are staring directly at the blind as they approach decoys. This makes it easy for them to detect movements made by you or your hunting dogs.
Another drawback here is that birds will fly downwind and away from you, effectively making it hard for you to make accurate follow-up shots. This strategy has in fact proved to cause more bird crippling than any other.
Play tactics on the water
Outdoor Life states that clear water looks unnatural for ducks when flying by. You are advised to make the water muddy using your own feet or a paddle. Muddy waters will attract waterfowls to search for food with the impression that worms and insects are lucking inside.
You could fake a waterhole in a depression, but remove any large stalks or weeds. Place a few decoys and weeds on the edge of the depression and sprinkle some water so that it is shiny and reflective.
Do not underestimate tiny details
Most hunting gear is stainless and shiny. This is perhaps the most effective way to turn birds away from you, especially if they have been hunted in the past. Their lives and livelihoods do not involve anything shiny. Not their families, their prey nor their playgrounds are shiny.
If ducks do not sit at our appointed decoy spread or shooting hole, change things a little bit. Modifying the shape of the formation could be the trick. The long shadow of your boat in the waters may look unnatural to the birds.
Make your decoys as visible as possible
The difference between a frustrating duck hunt and a successful one often lies in the spreading tactics used.
You do not have to use very large decoys. After all, large objects will look unnatural and intimidating.
Are your decoys visible to ducks flying some hundred feet away? If not, consider using a combination of different colours for your decoys. Let them resemble the natural ones- black-and-white divers, dozen divers and puddle ducks.
Do not always place decoy spreads in the bird’s resting areas or prime feeding zones. While this is a prudent thing to do, ducks that have been hunted in the past may notice the difference. Consider placing spreads on a visible spot and they will land to ‘interact’.
Make readable inscriptions on your loads
You most likely carry numerous duck and goose hunting loads out there. After repeatedly handling these loads, you will notice that the prints of text and numerical values wear off and become illegible, hence hard to differentiate.
If you cannot tell the shot size inside the shells, your hunting expedition will be futile. To avoid this undesirable happening, find a black magic marker and make permanent letters to describe the different shot sizes. This way, you will know which one to grab and when.
Open up the area around your decoys
Ice is usually the most intimidating challenge for any duck hunter, especially when placing decoys. Ducks Unlimited advises you to break large chunks of ice into smaller sheets that float freely. Set your decoys in the open spaces around the ice.
If you are hunting in an area covered by skim ice, setting decoys is even more challenging. Tiny pieces of skim ice look like pieces of broken glasses and reflect the sunlight so much that ducks become wary and scared. Use a rake or a net to clear pieces from this type of ice.
Give the ducks some room to land
Do you spend hours waiting for ducks to fly towards you and into the blind? Well, you may save this time and spend it instead on new hunting tricks. Note that your hunting tactics are not effective enough if you have to physically move towards the direction of the waterfowls.
Small waters usually freeze during specific seasons of the year. These seasons are perfect for experimenting new hunting approaches. You may be more successful at jump-shooting or stalking ducks on river creeks and floating waters.
Throughout the history of bird hunting, ducks have become wise and some have perfected the art of trickery safe flight. Therefore, approach them with military stealth and perfect camouflage.
Let your boat be of perfect size relative to the waters in which you are hunting. It should be large enough to accommodate all your landing gear. On the flipside, it should be small enough to navigate through the waters in dead inconspicuous nature.
Float your boat down a group of unsuspecting ducks while keeping as low a profile as possible. Ensure that the corners are well cut so as to get as close as possible to birds clutching behind a bend. Avoid swinging wide as birds will see you and fly away.
Learn to operate calling equipment
These days, the practice of duck hunting is so advanced that sophisticated calling equipment has been developed. Learn the operation of each piece of equipment and the most appropriate time for its use when hunting.
Some duck calling approaches are best suited for early morning as opposed to late night hunting. Some equipment is designed for feeding ducks while other are more efficient when ducks are mating.
Keep your calling equipment clean
Successful duck hunting depends on appropriate calling. Successful calling depends on appropriate maintenance of calling equipment. As you are working with all sort of dirty organic materials your calling instruments can gather dirt quickly.
Look at your calling apparatus every time after a duck hunting expedition, clean them up and ensure they are in their proper working conditions. Making a clean call while out there could ultimately help you make a clean hunt.
Lead ducks to believe they are standing on sheet water
According to Wild Fowl Mag, ducks only land on certain preferable settings. Shallow water is perhaps the leading ideal condition for landing. You can fool birds to believe that they are landing on shallow water by elevating materials to the surface of an otherwise deep patch.
What is your decoy brand? The mostly preferred items by duck hunters are steel rods, PVC pipes of varying lengths and diameters. If you must buy decoys, floating apparatus painted green at the edges are most appropriate.
Keeping a journal of what works and what doesn’t work for you is a prudent measure. When you are not hunting, mull over the journal points and learn from your mistakes. Develop more accurate duck hunting approaches and tighten your tricks for more hunting success next time.
In this video, Deer Meat for Dinner explains the most appropriate duck hunting gear. As it is made by a keen duck hunter, it is worth watching how he uses the equipment and when he does so. Having learnt these tips from seasoned hunters, you could be the next hunting pro.