John's Journal...

Short-Stopping Ducks

Why Only Greenheads

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: Missouri has become one of the top duck states in the nation. Many waterfowl hunters wonder why so many ducks stop in Missouri and Illinois and not come further south. To learn the answer to this question, we went to Missouri and hunted with Avery Pro Staff Team member, Tony Vandemore of Kirksville, Missouri. We also wanted to know how Vandemore takes a limit of ducks almost every day of the season.

Question: Tony, on our hunt, the only ducks we had coming to our spread were mallards. As each flight came in, you let each hunter know which birds in the flight were greenheads (male mallards), and you asked us only to shoot the greenhead mallards. Why?
Vandemore: I guess I’m somewhat blessed where I live. We get to shoot plenty of mClick to enlargeallards here. I know wildlife specialists say you can’t stockpile ducks, and I’m definitely no biologist. However, I believe that if we get the right water conditions in Canada in the spring, you’ll send more hen mallards back to the breeding grounds in the fall, and you’ll have more mallards coming down the flyway the next year. Therefore, if we only harvest the male mallards, hopefully we’re leaving more females that will make it down the flyway and return to Canada to produce more ducks for the next season. If Canada has a wet year, and there are plenty of places for the ducks to breed, if you let the hens survive to fly back north, you should have more mallards coming down the flyway the next fall. I’ve made it a practice to ask the hunters who hunt with me to only shoot the greenheads to help ensure that this happens. I try to see the greenheads in the flock as soon as I can and then tell my hunters before the shot where the greenheads are located in the flock, and in what area of the decoy spread to look for the greenheadClick to enlarges. This way, when I call the shot, the hunters have better chances of seeing and taking the greenheads, allowing the hens to not be shot. Occasionally, someone will mistakenly or accidentally take a hen mallard, and I don’t make a big deal of it. But I know that by talking to my hunters before the hunt, trying to see and identify the greenheads as soon as possible and letting my hunters know where to look for the greenheads as the ducks begin to cup their wings and light into the decoys, we’ll take fewer hen mallards than we’ll usually take.

Question: Tony, I see that you keep a floater jacket on Ruff, your labrador retriever, even though he doesn’t have to go in the water to retrieve ducks. Why are you keeping that vest on him when you’re hunting dry ground?
Vandemore: The Avery Floating TUFF Dog Parka isn’t necessarily a floating jacket. I keep it on my dog at all times during the winter months to protect him. Ruff is a hard-charging dog, and every time he’s set to make a retrieve, he throws caution to the wind and goes as hard as he can to find and bring either the duck or the goose back that we’ve shot. When we have cold weather with ice and sleet on the gClick to enlargeround, and the corn stalks are frozen and rigid, the dogs may hit corn stalks. If they’re not protected, the corn stalks can go into their chests like spears. Also, the bellies of the dogs are real soft and prone to injury. I probably wouldn’t go running into a cornfield naked in the dead of winter, and I don’t want to send Ruff out into that type of environment without some type of protection like the Avery Floating TUFF Dog Parka. The other aspect of the vest is that it keeps the dog warm. Sure, I can shoot ducks without any clothes on, but I won’t be able to concentrate, stay as long and hunt as hard as if I will if I’m wearing a Gore-Tex insulated outer shell with some warm clothes under it. The same is true of the dog. But if you’re keeping your dog in the house part of the time, he won’t develop the same kind of coat he will if he lives outdoors all year. Even though my dog’s an outside dog, I spend money to keep myself warm, so I don’t mind spending money to keep my dog warm. If a retriever is warm, he’ll perform at his maximum level of competency much more than if he’s cold and sluggish. Many times, if a dog gets too cold, he’ll quit retrieving and that may happen when you need him the most. Keeping a vest on your dog, whether you’re hunting water or not, is a smart investment and a better way to take care of your hunting partner.

To learn more about Avery Outdoors’ waterfowling products, go to

Tomorrow: How Weather Affects Ducks

Check back each day this week for more about "Short-Stopping Ducks"

Day 1: Why So Many Ducks Stop in Missouri
Day 2: A Weird Hunt
Day 3: Why Use the Train-Wreck-Type Decoy Spread
Day 4: Why Only Greenheads
Day 5: How Weather Affects Ducks



Entry 384, Day 4