Duck hunting can be the most exciting and frustrating thing during the fall. Sometimes there will be things that you won't be able to control, like stale birds, hunting pressure, and bad weather. But if you do your homework and perfect these five things, I can guarantee it will make your experience more enjoyable and successful!
Scout Before Duck Hunting
One of the most important things you can do to ensure a successful hunt is to put extra time and effort into scouting. Ducks like to spend a lot of time in the water, so looking at lakes, rivers, ponds, or any type of wetland, you will most likely come across ducks. After finding an area that holds a good number of birds, it is important to study and create a game plan if you choose to hunt it. Remember that easy access, good hide, and a comfortable place for the ducks to want to land and hang out is extremely important. Scouting can also be a very fun thing to do with your hunting crew. Some may say it's more fun than the hunt itself because you are basically hunting down a game plan while looking at nature the entire time you are in the car. Scouting the day/days before your hunt will give you a good advantage over most hunters!
Consider the Weather Before Hunting Ducks
No matter how many hunters you talk to or TV shows you watch. Everybody always has different opinions on what weather to hunt. I love hunting overcast days earlier in the year. Typically, I will start the first few weeks of the season hunting lakes and ponds, and it seems that when it is rainy, ducks like to fly around, stretch their wings, and just hop from pond to pond. As the season progresses, temperatures drop, and birds will develop new habits. Crop fields are now being harvested, and birds are switching from pondweed and wild rice diet to field corn and beans. I spent the remainder of the season hunting flooded or dry fields, and I found that my best hunts were on cold, windy, sunny, and blue-sky days. For some reason, this makes the ducks hungry and eager to get down in a field to start gorging themselves, especially before hopping in that north wind and riding it south. Weather can be a big factor in your hunt, no matter the time of the year. Make sure you check it the night before you venture out. The more you can prepare for a hunt, the better your success will be.
Hide Yourself When Hunting Ducks
The worst thing you can do to yourself after you find a great place to hunt is to forget about hiding yourself. You can have all the birds in the world using your hunting spot, but it's over as soon as they see you standing there with a gun and decoy. It is very important to hide and blend in with your environment. Whether that's covering up with natural cover such as bullrushes, hiding behind a tree, or in a beaver blind. Or if you are hunting in a field, cover a layout blind in grass or whatever crop you are sitting in. The ducks have incredible eyesight. Like other birds and small animals, they spend much time watching and running away from predators. Make sure you spend extra time hiding yourself and your crew to ensure you don't ruin that once and lifetime hunt after hours of scouting.
Mind the Calling Cadences When Hunting Ducks
Being good with a duck or goose call takes much time and practice. Some of the best hunters practice their calling year-round. While duck hunting, calls can add a lot of realism to a spread. Personally, there are three very important calls that an avid duck hunter needs to learn. The simple quack, feeder chuckle, and hail call. The quack can be used while they are flying by or near you just to add sound to your spread. The feeder chuckle is a great way to imitate a lot of ducks feeding, which tells the ducks in the air that it's okay to land and that they are missing out on a tasty meal. The hail call can be used in desperate times when birds are flying away from you, there are other hunters around, or if it's very windy and tough for the birds to hear. Practicing calling in the off-season prepares you to go come the opener. There is no better way to get birds to land in your decoys than to be able to speak their language and communicate with them!
Use Decoy Spreads for Duck Hunting
Ducks and decoys go together like PB&J. You almost need to have one if you will have the other. Using floating decoys, simply creating a popular "J" hook or a "U" gives the ducks a zone to land in and something that will stick out in the sky if they fly by. Another thing you can add to your spread that helps more than most people think is motion decoys. As most hunters have now heard of or have used "Mojos." They are battery-powered decoys that either have spinning wings, flapping wings, or a part that splashes water to imitate a live bird. Mojos are a great tool to use, especially in times without wind. Paying attention while scouting is another way to decide how to place your decoys. Play the scout, play the wind, and experiment with different spreads each hunt to find the one that makes birds most comfortable.
My number one tip to any new or avid hunter is to scout. It will 100% give you more opportunities to make exciting memories for you and your whole hunting crew. Once you do your homework, hiding yourself, calling, setting a spread, and following the weather will improve with more repetition. Don't forget to choose the right hunting clothes for duck hunting. Having the opportunity to go out and hop in a duck blind with your closest buddies is what it's all about. Be safe, have fun, and happy hunting!