John's Journal...

Tips for Taking More Late-Season Ducks

Tips from Barnie Calef and Chad Belding

Click to enlargeEditor’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.

Barnie Calef – Shoot ‘Em or Call ‘Em:
Barnie Calef of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, a videographer and a member of Hunter’s Specialties’ Pro Hunt Team, has won the World Duck Calling Championship in 1989, 1999 and 2000. “There are some tactics that you can use to take stale ducks,” Calef explains. “I classify a stale duck as a duck that’s been in the area for awhile, has seen and heard it all and doesn’t want to come in to where you’re calling. Basically you can do three things to have more success. You can change your calling techniques, move your decoys or move your blind.” Click to enlarge

When Calef attempts to determine which last-ditch method to use to take ducks, he first takes the ducks’ temperature. “If I’ve been blowing the call really hard when the ducks are on the corners to try and turn them to come back to the decoys but the ducks don’t turn and return to the decoys, then I’ll call less,” Calef reports. “When the next flight comes in,  and the ducks hit the corner of the decoys and start to leave, instead of really hammering them with calls, I’ll hit them with one short, quick, one-note comeback call.”
According to Calef, waterfowlers often make the mistake of blowing their calls too much when ducks don’t want to work. Calef has learned that less calling sometimes means more ducks. Calef calls less to see if the ducks will respond to him.

Click to enlarge“If this tactic doesn’t work, you know that you’re dealing with a nearly-impossible situation for calling ducks,” Calef comments. “So, I change my position. Instead of having the wind to my back, I’ll move to the side of the decoys to where there’s a crosswind downwind of the decoys. When the ducks start to swing out past the decoys, I’ll be there and ready to take a shot. My last-ditch method is to cover my boat almost all the way up with grass, position myself and my boat 60- or 70-yards down from the decoys and pass shoot ducks trying to come into my decoys. I’m not going to call or try and work the ducks with a call. I’ll just let the decoys do the work and shoot when I have birds in range. This scenario is about as bad as duck hunting gets. I call this strategy belly-shooting birds, when they’re coming into your decoys, and you know they won’t come all the way in to where you are.”

Chad Belding – Use Coots:

Chad Belding of Sparks, Nevada, a member of Avery Outdoors’ Professional Hunting Team, guides for Waterhaven Outfitters out of Ft. Collins, Colorado.

Click to enlargeDucks get really tough when they’ve stayed in the air for a long time,” Chad Belding explains. “And, since these ducks are accustomed to seeing big spreads of decoys, I’ll use fewer decoys. I may only have two mallard decoys and two coot decoys out and will attach jerk strings to my coot decoys. I’ll also set up my decoys away from the center of the pond in areas where coot usually will swim. I call just enough to get the ducks’ attention and then start the jerking the decoy to simulate its eating. I think the coot give the ducks in the air confidence that everything’s ok and that they can come in and light. Generally ducks will settle around coots on the water.” 

Belding believes the coot decoys really make a difference in his late-season duck hunting, but he also uses coot decoys daily when nothing else works. “With high-flying ducks, I’ll hit them hard with the duck calls to get them to drop and take a look,” Belding reports. “But once they come down, I’ll back down and use a greeting call. If the ducks circle the decoys and get out to the edges, I’ll give a soft comeback call with a squeal in it. I want my call to sound different than the other calls the ducks will hear. Because most hunters call too much to late-season ducks, I try to listen to what other callers are doing and then call differently than they do.” 

Tomorrow: Rod Haydel – When You Have Nothing to Lose

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 3