They were swinging behind their blind, a group of 4 mallard drakes and two hens. It was that last pass when the excitement builds in anticipation of feet down and ducks dropping into the decoys. And they floated in on locked wings in textbook fashion. Shots fired, marks were found, the limits filled all around. It was one of those perfect mornings, the ones that keep you rising before dawn in below freezing temps for the chance that it happens once again.
But nothing is ever perfect and hunting techniques certainly fall into that category. Some days it never seems to work right but if you can limit your mistakes your good hunts will outnumber your bad ones. Take a look at these “seven deadly sins” so to speak and see which ones you are guilty of.
- Shooting at ducks out of range: This is the easiest one to fix. Step off forty paces and see how far that really is. Put a decoy at that range and keep your shots inside of their. On birds overhead a good rule of thumb is that if you cannot clearly see their feet they are too high.
- Not adapting to wind direction: Wind steers ducks and geese just like it does any aircraft. They need to wind to slow their flight speed to land and to help them get airborne. So decoy placement is critical in relation to wind direction. And it doesn’t have to be always at your back, in fact it is better many times to have the birds sliding into range from the sides so they are not staring directly at your hide.
- Placing your decoys too close together: Birds that are relaxed and feeding or loafing tend to be separated. Birds suddenly thrust into alarm mode will raise their heads and quickly bunch together prior to flushing. An exception to this is very cold conditions that will keep them bunched together to conserve body heat.
- They can see you: If you can see a duck or goose clearly as they are working, you are being seen by them. Watch them on the downwind turn and don’t let them see movement that is out of place.
- Over or under calling: Focusing on calling too much has been covered many times but in some cases you need to ramp it up a notch. This is especially true in situations involving competition. And there can be plenty of that even on private lands. Duck and goose hunting is more popular now than ever so areas that went untouched five years ago now have blinds full of hunters. Aggressively keeping ducks focused on your spread all the way to the water may be the only way to get them in range in your spot.
- Relying on gadgets to compensate for location: The past fifteen years have witnessed an explosion in things that flash and splash to attract waterfowl. I have seen a boatload full of toys out tolling at everything flying by for miles. All of this can help but none of it will make up for lack of hours scouting and the hard work putting you in the best possible location. Location, location, location!
- Impatience: “Man we had our limit by 7:30” was the boast from one table at the restaurant. Another one fires back “we were done at 7:15!” We all would love to be covered up in birds on every hunt but reality has a different plan in mind. Don’t be in such a hurry to leave if things are slow. Ducks and geese are not tied to the ground they are free to come and go as they please. Give it an extra hour or even two, the results will surprise you.