Many resources exist to gather duck-hunting pointers. Throughout the season, here at Realtree, we often share knowledge from some of the best in the sport, laying out a set of guidelines for everything from decoy placement to dog training.
Rather than beat the same ideas to death, let’s take a look at a few overlooked factors that often make a big difference when waterfowl hunting. The content will jump around a bit, but the theme remains the same: these off-the-wall ideas simply put more birds in the bag.
Consider Concealment Angles
Without question, one of the most overlooked factors in waterfowling, especially marsh and flooded field hunts for ducks, is considering how the birds view you, as a hunter. While many hunters utilize fancy boat blinds that look great from across the bay, when viewed from above, they stick out like a sore thumb. It’s important to always remember the angle of concealment. Field hunters are great at this: often concealing every piece of a layout blind. But others lack the vision. For starters, check out the accompanying photo to see how ducks see a dog from the air, then adjust your strategy accordingly. Remember to get vertical with your camo.
Don’t Overcomplicate Calling
Calling both ducks and geese isn’t difficult. Over-calling them, and actually hurting your chances for bringing them in, is even easier. For the most part, most waterfowl calling is built on a few simple “notes”. For ducks, that’s a greeting call, chatter and a quack. With geese, it’s usually just a honk and cluck. In any case, callers who stick to these basics can bring in 90% or more of the willing birds in an area. However, many novice hunters lose realism with crazy “contest calling” afield, thus hurting their chances. When in doubt, stick to the basics, or just be quiet. At day’s end, the game strap will be the judge.
Rest a Dog
I used to think my dog was invincible. Now that he’s 10 years old, I wish I never had. Regardless of the strength of a pedigree, hard-working retrievers regularly need rest. Contrary to popular belief, dogs don’t wake every day at 3 a.m. and instinctively want to head to the blind. They feed off our excitement, but often don’t know how to shut it down.
If I could do it all over again, I would rest my dog on a regular basis, like every third day of a continuous hunting streak. In addition, I’d hunt him less in the bitter-cold winter seasons he once dominated. Believe me, it will save you a bundle down the road in vet bills.
Start Hunting at the Ramp
If you think about it, it’s often comical how waterfowlers attack the morning. With mud motors roaring in the pre-dawn darkness and headlamps piercing the blackness as they set decoys, hunters then expect the marsh to come alive the moment dawn breaks, and to have ducks landing right in the hole. The problem is, the ducks took off long ago.
To up the odds of a memorable hunt right out of the gate, go in earlier, and go in quieter. I once spoke with an experienced duck nut who hunted out of a canoe, and mentioned that he often limits before reaching his prime hunting zone, simply by sneaking up on birds, jump shooting a few, and calling the rest in without decoys. The same goes for honker hunters: the earlier you can get set up in a field, the better, and to do so without headlights glaring can really help.
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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.