After spending nearly a decade in public draw hunts throughout Michigan, in the shadow of one of the largest cities in the midwest, I learned to adapt to pressured birds. This network of hunting areas offer two hunts each day, every day of the season, for a total of 116 consecutive sessions. Ducks here are smart.
Once adapted to these conditions, I found a few simple methods to up the odds. Those, combined with the input of buddies, combined for point-blank shots at fat mallards. Here’s insight to successful methods for pressure birds.
Concealment is everything.
Calling skills, shotgunning ability, dog work, decoy knowledge; none is as important as concealment when hunting educated ducks. While a hunter can get away with a blunder in any other category, one error in camouflage is a deal-breaker. Here, hunters must consider everything, including concealing themselves, their boats and blinds, even dogs. Be sure to consider a duck’s view from the air, not from the horizon, as pressured birds often circle numerous times overhead before committing.
Realism Trumps Attraction.
One code to live by when hunting anything heavily pressured is to remain as natural as possible. With waterfowl, consider realism with decoys, matching the overall natural shape, size and coloration of real birds, and select blocks for the species of ducks living daily in the area. In addition, keep decoy numbers low overall; more decoys just give more possibilities for ducks to notice problems. The same goes for calling, as natural noises are far better than high-balls or overdone feeding chatter.
Wait for the perfect shot.
Contrary to popular belief, killing pressured birds doesn’t require skybusting miracle shots. Experience confirms that it’s far best to wait for a perfect shot and stay hidden than risk 50-yard attempts. The reason is simple; after careful observation, my hunting group has found that pressured birds often circle repeatedly, land nearby, and then come back soon to recheck our hole. If we stay still and quiet, eventually ducks land right in on us. My resident goose expert agrees: several times he’s seen small groups of Canadas land in an adjacent field, walk around for a few minutes, then pick up and come right to his decoys. A crazy initial shot on the first pass would have prevented that from ever happening.
Bonus Tip: Include Motion Whenever Possible.
Highly pressured birds see hunters, and their decoys, every day. Most often, those decoys remain relatively motionless on calm days. To separate yourself from the crowd, always include motion. A simple jerk rig kit, like the pack offered by Rig Em Right, can be a lifesaver. To up the odds even more, utilize two or three kits at once, and get the whole spread moving.
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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.