11 Reasons You Don't Kill Ducks

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Learn to Avoid These Killer Gaffes This Season

You Don

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1 | You Don't Go

There’s no bigger reason for not killing ducks than slapping the snooze button on your alarm. The most dedicated hunters don’t skip an opportunity to hunt when conditions aren’t perfect. They hunt. It doesn’t matter if it’s 70 degrees and the sky is as clear and blue as the Caribbean Sea. You can’t kill ducks if you aren’t sitting over a decoy spread somewhere. You might not fire a shot all morning, but you certainly won’t if you sleep in.

Photo © G-Stockstudio/Shutterstock

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They Can See You

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2 | They Can See You

Parking yourself over a decoy spread is only a small part of the success equation.You have to hide. Good camo helps, but what you wear is far less important than how you wear it.

The real secret? Bury yourself in some cover, sit still and don’t look up at circling ducks. Wear a facemask, or even smear paint on your face if you must, but sit still, and wait until it’s time to shoot.

Photo © Bill Konway

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You

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3 | You're in the Wrong Spot

You’ve heard it a hundred times, and you’ll hear it again, because it’s true. You’ll never kill ducks if you aren’t on the X; that magical spot where ducks want to be. Hunt a sprawling corn field in North Dakota or a big marsh in Louisiana and you’ll see ducks pile into a spot that looks identical to the spot you’re guarding.

Only the ducks know why they prefer one spot instead of another, but that’s beside the point. When they are locked on a specific landing zone, there’s nothing you can do to change their minds. You have to move.

Photo © Bill Konway

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You Refuse to Move

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4 | You Refuse to Move

It’s impossible to pick up and move in some situations. Everything from other hunters to restrictive regulations or other factors can force you to stay where you are, ducks or no ducks. But not always. If you have the freedom to roam, grab your gear, pick up your decoys and move to where the ducks want to be.

That might mean you have to abandon that cushy palace of a blind and hunker down in the mud a few hundred yards away. But if you want to kill ducks, you might have to make a move to the magical spot.

Photo © Bill Konway

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You Don

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5 | You Don't Scout

So how do you find that coveted X before you start hunting? You look for it. The most successful hunters don’t just find some water, throw out a spread and hope for the best. They sometimes spend more time looking for birds than actually hunting them. After a morning hunt, they’ll motor around the marsh to find pockets of undisturbed birds and hidden pockets of habitat, or they’ll burn up a tank of gas to find field-feeding ducks.

They don’t just find ducks. They study the birds, watching where they land, where they swim or walk and what time they leave. They even identify species so they can tailor their decoy spread to match the real thing.

Photo © Tom Rassuchine/Banded

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There are No Ducks Around

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6 | There are No Ducks Around

It’s easy to get frustrated when the Internet is overflowing with photos of beaming hunters showing off a strap full of greenheads. Take heart. They are probably hunting a different region or even another state — a place that holds ducks consistently.

Some areas just aren’t ducky. They might not be on a major flyway, they might not have suitable habitat or the fall flight just hasn’t arrived yet. You can’t kill ducks if there are no ducks where you hunt. There’s not much you can do to change that except take a road trip to some new country or pray for a strong cold front to bring in birds.

Photo © Bill Konway

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Your Decoys are Lifeless

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7 | Your Decoys are Lifeless

Watch a flock of real birds on the water and one thing stands out: motion. The water around them is constantly moving as the birds swim, feed and splash. Something is always moving. Your decoys need to move, too.

Use jerk cords, bubblers, wobblers, spinning-wing decoys and other motion tools. A steady breeze can eliminate the need for a jerk cord, but even if the wind bobs your decoys around, consider using one anyway. They do more than just create ripples. The decoys actually move in a somewhat realistic manner. Spinners can also attract suspicious birds.

Photo © Bill Konway

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You Can

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8 | You Can't Shoot

The most obvious reason might be the most painful to admit. You can’t kill ducks if you can’t hit them. What would you expect if you only pick up your shotgun during hunting season? There’s no substitute for off-season practice. The best shooters shoot all year.

It might not be you. Using a mismatched choke can result in poor patterns, which means you aren’t putting enough pellets in the kill zone. The solution is simple. Find a combination of choke and load that throws a tight pattern, and then stick with it. You might have to go through a dozen types of ammo and a couple of chokes, but your kill rate will go up when you find the right combination.

Consider using a larger shot size or one of the premium shotshell brands. Smaller pellets might not penetrate enough at longer ranges.

Photo © Bill Konway

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Get Rid of the Spinners

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9 | Get Rid of the Spinners

Motion is good. Unless it’s bad. Spinning-wing decoys can actually spook ducks, particularly later in the season or in areas with lots of hunting pressure. Birds have seen enough spinners to associate them with danger. Some hunters refuse to pull them, though.

As a general rule, spinning-wing decoys are most effective on sunny days and in the early part of the season. Some hunters insist they are far more effective in dry fields than over water, too. The truth is they are or they aren’t. How well they fool ducks depends on several factors, some of which we will never fully understand. Just be willing to pull the spinners if passing ducks flare or refuse to finish.

Photo © Tom Rassuchine/Banded

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You (Think You) are a Great Caller

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10 | You (Think You) are a Great Caller

You might know how to blow a duck call, but you don’t know when to blow a duck call. There’s a difference. Wailing away on a call every time you see birds is a recipe for an empty duck strap.

Watch an expert caller work a flock of ducks and you’ll witness pure seduction. He hail-calls at the exact right moment and then shifts to some soft quacking before lowering the call when it needs to be lowered. Sometimes, he won’t even call at all.

That’s learned through experience, but it’s also taught through self-restraint. Not calling can teach you a few things, too. Don’t be afraid to leave your call hanging around your neck the next time you see ducks.

Photo © Bill Konway

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You

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11 | You're Stubborn

In other words, if what you are doing isn’t working, change something. Anything. Pull the spinner, or put one out. The only thing more maddening that watching duck after duck flare from your spread well outside of shooting range is the guy who refuses to acknowledge that something isn’t right.

It could be the spread. Take some decoys away, or add some. Shift them around. Stuff your call into your blind bag and see if that works, because if you aren’t killing ducks, you’ve got nothing to lose.

Photo © Bill Konway

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Some duck hunters just seem to have a knack for killing birds. Like the 10 percent of fishermen that catch 90 percent of the fish, these guys seem to come home with a strap full of ducks every time they go out.

What’s their secret? They might belong to a high-dollar duck club that’s managed to attract and hold tons of birds. Or they just might have an innate ability to find and fool ducks. More likely, though, they’ve been hunting long enough to learn a few things. There’s no better teacher than experience. However, the most successful hunters learn from successes and failures and use that accumulated knowledge every time they hunt.

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