John's Journal...

Duck-Hunting Guides Tell All

Solving Five of the Most-Common Duck-Hunting Problems

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: For 23 years, Billy Blakely has hunted ducks every day of duck season on Reelfoot Lake near Tiptonville, Tennessee, in Tennessee’s northwestern corner. Most of the guides, at Bluebank Resort including Jason Craig and Shane Upchurch, who work with him at Blue Bank Resort hunt 40 to 50 days each season. They’ve seen all the mistakes duck hunters make and know how to solve duck-hunting problems. Let’s learn how to solve some of our own duck-hunting difficulties.

1) Over-calling - “I have to name over-calling as one the main problems that duck hunters have,” Billy Blakely says. “Many hunters want to keep calling to the ducks until they squeeze their triggers. For instance, we’ll have a flight of ducks come in to the blind, and the hunters still will be blowing a hail call. However, the only time to blow a hail call is when the ducks are going away from you. When the ducks are coming to you, you need to give some soft chatter or light quacks. Before I’ve been calling soft like that with a big flight of ducks coming straight in and have had a hunter right behind me pick up his call and blow a loud hail call that spooks the ducks away from the blind. I believeClick to enlarge the biggest mistake hunters make is calling too much and too loudly.”

2) Moving around in a blind or looking straight up at the ducks while a caller’s trying to bring in the birds – “On cloudy days especially, the ducks can practically see a mouse run across the floor of the blind from 1/4-mile in the air,” Jason Craig mentions. “When they see the shiny face of a hunter looking up or moving, those birds will fly away from the blind. But instead of looking at the ducks, keep your head and face down, and don’t move when the ducks are working the decoys. Let the caller watch the birds, tell you where they are, when to come up, and when to shoot. You’ll get many more ducks this way. The only time you should move when the duck are coming in is when you’re coming up to shoot. The guide or the caller will tell you where the ducks will be, so, as soon as you come out of the blind you know where to look to see the ducks.

3) Shooting too soon – “Many times I have hunters shoot when the ducks are out 80 to 90 yards from the blind,” Shane Upchurch reports. “These people waste more shells and spook more ducks than any other type of hunter I ever have in the blind. This problem often happens when you’re hunting close to another blind. The ducks may appear to be going to the other blind, and the hunter in my blind will think, "Click to enlargeI’ll shoot that duck before it gets to the other blind," although there’s no way he’ll be able to touch that duck with his shells. I’ve found that trying to break a hunter from shooting ducks far away is like trying to break a dog from being gun-shy. It’s not going to happen. A sky buster is always going to be a sky buster.”

4) Bringing the wrong size shell – “We have quite a few hunters who will bring T-shot instead of No. 2s or No. 4s,” Upchurch mentions. “T-shot, a big shot, has been designed to shoot geese close to the blind. One morning we had a group of hunters all shooting T-shot when we called in a flight of teal with about 60 birds in it. We got the teal within less than 30 yards, and all six hunters came up shooting. They never touched a single teal with their shot. If they’d been shooting smaller shot like No. 2s or No. 4s, even if they could shoot accurately, with that much lead in the air they would at least have taken one or two ducks. However, they never cut a feather on any teal that came in to the decoys. When you’re hunting teal like we do, we recommend hunters shoot No. 4 shot. Even when we’re hunting mallards, we still recommend No. 2 and No. 4 s.”

5) Wearing the wrong clothes to the blind – “We have many hunters from Florida andClick to enlarge Georgia, and they don’t wear enough warm clothes to stay comfortable in the blind,” Blakely says. “Those folks nearly freeze to death on the boat ride from the launch to the blind. We keep our blinds warm with heaters, but for someone not accustomed to hunting ducks and being in cold weather, the blind still may feel cool. Most of the time the hunters' feet get the coldest. I had one hunter offer me a brand-new Browning shotgun for my military boots like all the guides wear. Actually that hunter came close to getting my boots that morning in a trade for that Browning. Too, one year the lake was frozen, and we had to use an airboat to reach our blinds. When you’re riding in an airboat, that cold wind will cut through almost any kind of clothing. On the morning we were going to hunt ducks, one of my hunters came out wearing a lightweight pullover shirt without even a coat or a rain suit jacket. I asked him, ‘Fella, where’s your coat? This morning will be cold.’ The man sort of frowned and insisted he was accustomed to this kind of weather. I told him, ‘Okay. Sit up here with me next to the fan.’ But by the time we reached the blind, that hunter had frost on his mustache. The second morning when he came out to go to the blind he looked like the Pillsbury doughboy, he had on so many clothes. Another morning we had a hunter in the blind, and his feet got so cold he took his boots off and put his sock feet so close to the heater that he caught his socks on fire. We had to put the fire out on his feet.”

To learn more about duck hunting at Bluebank Resort, call (731) 253-8976 or check out

Tomorrow: Solving Seven More of the Most-Common Duck-Hunting Problems

Check back each day this week for more about "Duck-Hunting Guides Tell All"

Day 1: Billy Blakely
Day 2: Shane Upchurch
Day 3: Jason Craig
Day 4: Solving Five of the Most-Common Duck-Hunting Problems
Day 5: Solving Seven More of the Most-Common Duck-Hunting Problems



Entry 388, Day 4