If you’re a waterfowler, you’ll likely be familiar with these types
Uncooperative ducks get on your nerves every season, but they’re especially vexing during tough years. From flaring to almost disappearing at times, their mocking behavior makes you shake your head.
Hopefully, you’re not having a difficult season. But if you are, you’ve probably met these annoying birds. And if you haven’t yet, you will at some point.
You’ll encounter these ducks during almost every hunt. They pass over ridiculously high, seem to circle or check out your spread, and then continue to their original destination — likely unhunted water or a protected feed.
No easy solutions here. Most days, you must simply accept that those ducks won’t work and focus on birds that will. Or you can resolve to find where they’re going or wait until they change their routine.
Diver hunters, stop me if you’ve experienced this: Passing birds wheel around, bank into the wind, rise to check out your decoys and then … land 50 yards outside your spread. Sometimes, that’s unavoidable. Other days, you might tweak your blocks to entice birds closer. Extend a long tail from the inside of your spread downwind. Or make sure your blocks are set with some visible open water behind them. Divers finish much better when they’re looking upwind at water rather than land.
With your head seemingly on a swivel, you look left, right and up, ready for any ducks that might zoom in suddenly. And then a bird almost takes your head off from behind and disappears into the stratosphere before you can react. Argh.
This happens frequently during relatively calm days on open water, such as large marshes or lakes, especially with teal, wood ducks and divers. If you’re hunting with a partner, look downwind while he looks upwind. Or try to hunt areas where birds can’t swing behind you, such as tree lines. But when the inevitable happens, just laugh and appreciate the capricious nature of ducks.
You’ve probably experienced this with mallards, gadwalls and pintails: Birds react to your spread and circle once or twice, getting lower with each swing. But instead of committing, they continue to swirl around your hide out of range and eventually land 100-some yards in another hole. Why?
First, double-check your concealment. Maybe those ducks didn’t spook, but something probably looked a bit off. Next, examine your spread to make sure it looks realistic and inviting. Also, consider switching up your calling. If you were calling a lot, back off a bit. Or vice versa.
These birds are actually part of the short-stopping or endless-circling gangs. And after landing out of range, they attract every other duck in the area to their party. In dry fields, you might walk toward the birds to spook them up and hope that others filter in later. But on open water, where motoring your boat toward the birds would constitute hazing, you’ll often just have to watch the show.
Easy Ones That Get Away
All duck hunters wince when they miss or otherwise goof up an easy bird over their decoys. When hunting is good, we can laugh it off. If that was one of your few opportunities of the day, though, it’ll stick in your craw awhile.
Solution? Take the laugh-it-off route. Don’t be so tough on yourself. Maybe you blew it, but other days will bring more chances. And you’ll probably have a funny story to share for years.
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Realtree waterfowl editor Brian Lovett has been an obsessive duck and goose hunter for more than 30 years, chasing his passion on the Dakota prairies and the marshes and open water of his home state of Wisconsin. He's been a writer and editor in the outdoors industry since 1991.