John's Journal...

Tips for Taking More Late-Season Ducks

How Christian Curtis Works the Ducks

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.

Christian Curtis of Sikeston, Missouri, has won two World Duck Calling Championships in the Hunting-Style Division besides several other duck calling championships and guides 60 days a year for ducks. Waterfowlers across the nation know of his guiding service, Allen-Curtis Wildfowl Adventures.
Curtis believes that if you see ducks flying, they’ll work. As Curtis explains, “If the ducks won’t work to the call, there’s usually something wrong. The two most-common problems are either your hunters or your blind aren’t totally camouflaged, and the ducks are seeing something they Click to enlargedon’t like, or, there’s no wind, and your setup doesn’t look normal or natural. To solve the first problem of not being well-camouflaged, get away from your blind, look at it, and see what’s causing the problem. If you have other hunters in the blind, see if some of your brush may have blown off the blind, which doesn’t look natural, or there’s something else about that setup that won’t look just right.”

If you’re satisfied that your blind looks good and your boat is well-hidden, then your hunters could be the problem. “I always carry headnets with me in the blind,” Curtis says. “I think that 80% of the time when you’re flaring ducks, someone’s looking at the ducks from the blind with a shiny face, which makes the ducks flare. On cloudy days, this problem is magnified because ducks can see much better on cloudy days than they can on sunny days,” he explains. Curtis suggests solving the other problem of having no wind in a variety of ways. “When ducks are sitting on the water and swimming and feeding, Click to enlargethey’re giving off ripples. If you’ve got decoys sitting on flat water without any ripples, ducks flying over know that’s not a natural-looking group of ducks. You can buy several different types of motion decoys that will swim and move around on the water. But I’ve found that for me, they usually get tangled up in my other decoys too much to be effective. I still use the jerk-string technique from a decoy to the blind, to put ripples on the water. The good thing about a jerk string is the batteries don’t ever go dead, and you can put ripples on the water any time you need them. On days with no wind, you’ve got to do something to make the water where your decoys are sitting to make ripples, waves or some other movement to resemble feeding ducks.”

On sunny days, Curtis calls loudly, but he calls softly on a cloudy, overcast, rainy-looking days. He never calls the same every day. “If the same ducks are flying over the same decoy spread and hear the same talk, they’ll know that same Suzy doesn’t sing the same song every day, so Click to enlargechange up your calling,” Curtis emphasizes. “Remember that ducks are like humans, and all have individual voices and speak a little differently. So don’t be afraid to change your calling up and sound like a different duck every time you call. There’s one other reason that ducks flare or won’t work to your decoys, and that’s if you’re too lazy to move your decoys every day. We take our decoys up every night and put them out every day. Taking your decoys up every day and putting them out every morning before you hunt is extremely important when you have stale ducks that have been in your area for awhile without a weather change to bring new ducks down from the north. If those same ducks fly over the decoys sitting in the same spot day after day, not more than a day or two is required for the ducks to wise-up to the fact the decoys aren’t ducks. If you’re going to be a duck hunter, you have to work for the ducks, and the more you work, the more ducks you’ll take. Taking decoys in every day and putting them out every morning is a hassle, but the people who go through the hassle will take more ducks than the people who don’t. When ducks don’t want to work, you’ve got to go to work to get them in close enough to take.”

You can take tough late-season ducks if you’ll try these tactics of the duck-hunting pros. You may find your late-season duck hunting as productive as your early-season duck hunting when you use these techniques.

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 5