John's Journal...

Tips for Taking More Late-Season Ducks

Camouflage and Decoys

EClick to enlargeditor’s Note: On some days and at certain times, ducks just won’t work for your calls and don’t always fly. However, on the days that the ducks do fly, they may work to the decoys, put their feet out and their wings up to light but then not come all the way to the decoys. Try these tactics I’ve learned from some of the nation’s best waterfowl guides and callers.

Camouflage Everything:
For waterfowling success, you need to be invisible to the waterfowl. Have a well-brushed blind and also plenty of brush in-between the hunters in the box with ample brush over the shooting ports. Then the ducks can't see the hunters. If you use a boat and/or a dog, make sure you have enough brush around them so the ducksClick to enlarge don't spot them. Most hunters overlook camouflaging their hands and their faces and understanding the effects of shade when they're hunting ducks from a pit or a blind. On a bright, sunny day, hunters can hide in the shade of their blind, and the ducks flying overhead won't spot them. However, on a cloudy day with no shade, when the ducks look down into that blind, they'll see the movement of white hands and white faces. Wear some kind of camouflage headnet and gloves when hunting ducks.

Muddy the Water:
Ducks muddy the water where they feed. If you're riding to your blind in your boat, ride through your decoys to muddy the water. Too, when you're putting decoys out, stir-up the bottom. If you're hunting with three or four other hunters, all of you need to walk around the decoys to muddy the water before getting into the blind. Muddy water acts like a magnet to pull ducks out of the sky. If ducks spot muddy water from high in the sky and see the decoys sitting on that off-colored water, the birds have no reason not to believe thaClick to enlarget what they're seeing is a group of actively-feeding ducks. The more realistic you make the decoys appear, the more likely that you'll draw in high-flying ducks.

Place Decoys Properly:
Generally clustering decoys in small groups tends to bring in ducks better than other systems. Many waterfowlers like to have some big groups of decoys and some small groups of two to eight decoys sitting away from the main body of decoys. Leave a flight path for the ducks to come in to as well as open water right over the blind in which the ducks can light. Ducks usually fly and feed in small groups. Sometimes several small groups may feed together to form a large group. But even in a big flock of ducks, you'll see small groups of ducks feeding away from the main body. In the big group of decoys, place one decoy or a pair of decoys for the focus duck that will, in some way, look different from the rest of the decoys in the main group. You may use two pintail decoys in a group of mallard decoys or two black duck decoys in a group of mallard decoys as focus ducks. Put your focus decoys on the downwind side of your main group of decoys in the exact spot whereClick to enlarge you want the ducks to land.

If you're hunting a narrow slough about 60-yards across, place some of your decoys in the shallow water near the far bank to prevent the ducks from landing on the outer edge of the decoys. Instead you'll force them to land on the inside of your large decoy spread and hopefully inside your smaller groups of decoys. If you're working a large flight of ducks, let one or two of the first ducks come in and light on the water before you call the shot. Many times by allowing the first ducks in a large flight to light, these birds will help to pull in the larger flock. Then you'll get more shooting with a bigger number of birds in the best shooting position- their wings cupped and feet stretched-out. Although these tactics consistently have produced more ducks, remember, when you hunt wild ducks, they don't always do what they're supposed to do when they should do it.

Tomorrow: Tips from Barnie Calef and Chad Belding

Check back each day this week for more about "Tips for Taking More Late-Season Ducks"

Day 1: Talk Like a Duck and Think Like a Webfoot
Day 2: Camouflage and Decoys
Day 3: Tips from Barnie Calef and Chad Belding
Day 4: Rod Haydel – When You Have Nothing to Lose
Day 5: How Christian Curtis Works the Ducks


Entry 490, Day 2