6 Tips for Opening-Day Duck Hunting Success


The First Hunt of the Season is Approaching. Get Ready Now

Start Blowing Your Call Early, and Practice Throughout the Off-Season

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1 | Start Blowing Your Call Early, and Practice Throughout the Off-Season

“Unfortunately, for a lot of guys, the first time they use their call is the night before the season opens or first thing that next morning,” Breish said.

Bad move. Not only are you not practiced with your calls, you don’t know if your calls are up to snuff. Maybe they need tuning or new reeds, he said. Opening morning isn’t the time to find out. Also, by starting early, you will have time to send a call to the manufacturer for tuning, a service most manufacturers offer.

“Send it with plenty of time, just as a courtesy to the callmaker,” Breish said. “They get extremely busy before the season, and guys send their calls in the week before the season starts and think they’ll have them back in time. Unfortunately, that’s not the case due to the huge backlog of stuff from guys waiting until the last minute.”

You can tune or tweak your own calls, but again, don’t wait until the last minute, Breish said. “There are plenty of videos and social media sites and other resources to show you how to do it,” he said. “It’s not something you’re going to be perfect at right off the bat. There’s definitely a technique to it, but it’s not something people can’t do. It’s a very useful piece of knowledge.” Useful if you’re in the field and the reed falls out of your call or needs to be replaced. And you won’t have the down time waiting for your call to come back from tuning at the manufacturer.

If you’re in the market for a new call, try some before you buy.

“Don’t buy them simply because of looks or because someone else likes them,” Breish said. “Everyone is different, and calls are going to work differently with different users. Go out and blow them in the stores. Run ’em and find out which one you like and fits you best.”

Photo © Bill Konway

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Prepare the Essentials, and Leave Them Prepared

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2 | Prepare the Essentials, and Leave Them Prepared

Go through your blind bag and make sure all the things you often forget are in there. Put them in now, and leave them in there, Breish said. Think through what you’ll need. If it’s early-season hunting, you might need insect repellent. Put it in your bag now.

“Probably the No. 1 thing when we get to the field, if anyone forgets anything, it’s a headlamp,” Breish said. Make sure you have a headlamp and spares in case someone else forgets or one goes down. And extra batteries.”

And if having your cellphone along is important, pack a charge cord.

“I don’t rely on remembering to get the cord out of the truck,” Breish said.

He keeps a spare in his bag, along with a portable battery-pack charger.

Extra sunglasses are a must, he said.

“Everybody has their favorite pair of sunglasses, but if you forget them, you’re without them,” he said. “Just make sure you have backups in your bag.”

Extra reeds for your calls. Check.

And, carry the state waterfowl hunting guide for your location.

“It’s a very useful tool whether you’re hunting in your home state or traveling,” Breish said. “That way, if you have any questions about rules, regulations, shooting times, bag limits, season dates (or) anything like that, even if you don’t have service on your phone and can’t pull up the Internet, that guide is an essential tool to make sure you are within the guidelines and regulations.”

Photo © Tom Rassuchine/Banded

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Check Your Shotgun, and Practice, Practice, Practice

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3 | Check Your Shotgun, and Practice, Practice, Practice

A lot of guys put their shotgun away at the end of the season without cleaning it or forget about an issue they had with it, Breish said. Don’t wait until the day before season opener to check. Go through your firearm, clean it, check it thoroughly and get out and practice with your duck gun, he said.

“The gun you’re going to hunt with should be the gun you practice with,” he said.

And practice as much as possible with the shotshells you’ll be using, he said.

“That’s constantly a hot topic for discussion when you talk to hunters and sporting-clays shooters, the shells you’re going to use, because you can go out and practice as much as you want, but a 1,100-fps target load is not going to handle the same as hotter 1,500-fps waterfowl loads,” he said.

Remember, many ranges have rules against using hotter hunting rounds, so plan accordingly. Hunting loads or target loads, practice will put you in a better position to succeed, he said.

And, Breish said, be consistent on the shotshells you choose. Don’t switch from one brand or load to another just because something is on sale.

“Choose the load you are comfortable with, and stick to that load throughout the season,” he said.

Practicing on various targets from a variety of positions can help too, he said. Don’t always shoot from the ready position, because that’s not how you’ll be shooting in the field.

Photo © Bill Konway

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Clean, Patch, Repair

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4 | Clean, Patch, Repair

Get out your decoys and go through them one by one. Check lines and weights. Clean them if they need it. Touch up the paint if they need it.

“You want them to look as realistic as can be once they get on the water or in the field,” Breish said.

Clean and check your blind. Make sure everything works smoothly.

“Do you have rusty bolts in the blind or something that keeps the doors from operating properly? Make sure your decoys and blinds are good to go,” he said.

Photo © Bill Konway

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Check Your Hunting Locations

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5 | Check Your Hunting Locations

Conditions change from year to year, Breish said. Don’t wait until the last minute to check on your favorite spots. If they had water last year, do they have water this year?

“Make sure it is still huntable and still accessible,” he said. “Renew your leases if need be and your relationships with landowners.”

If you hunt private land, do you still have permission, and is it still accessible? Check instead of assuming, he said. Public areas, too.

“Are they still huntable and no change in regulations?” Breish asked.

He said he encountered a situation a couple of years ago in which islands in the Detroit River went from a popular hunting area one year to a wildlife refuge the next, surprising many hunters who showed up opening morning expecting to hunt.

“So make sure your public areas are still accessible and available for you to hunt,” he said. “And have options 1, 2 and 3 as well. There’s a lot of competition on opening morning, the most popular day of the year to hunt waterfowl, so make sure you have options available. If one spot is already taken, be respectful to that person that got there before you, and make sure you have another place to hunt.”

Photo © Tom Rassuchine/Banded

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Enjoy the Dog Days of Summer

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6 | Enjoy the Dog Days of Summer

Work with your dog, and make the training sessions as realistic as possible by duplicating hunting scenarios, Breish said.

“Everybody works their dogs and uses dummies working on fetching, but more times than not, they get out there and the dog is not prepared for a hunting situation,” he said.

The dog just isn’t used to the different surroundings, he said. There are more people, more and different smells, live birds and more guns going off — a lot of confusing distractions.

“Unfortunately, a lot of dogs are just not ready for that type of scenario, and it tends to ruin a hunt, and people get frustrated,” he said.

“Work with your dog as much as you possibly can in a hunting scenario to make sure that dog is ready for the season.”

Photo © Bill Konway

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If you’re hoping opening morning of duck season will be successful, you should be doing more than hoping, according to Ryan Breish, one of the producers of Fowled Reality and The X on Realtree.com.

“There are things we generally should do that we don’t do that we end up realizing we should have done,” he said.

Though summer is winding down, there’s still time to work on those things. Take Breish’s advice, which he broke down as six tips for opening-day success.

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