John's Journal...

Duck-Hunting Guides Tell All

Solving Seven More 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 who work with him at Blue Bank Resort, including Shane Upchurch and Jason Craig, 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) Not respecting the water and the danger it holds – “I’ve seen duck hunters going to their blinds with six or seven people, two dogs and a boatload of decoys in a 14-foot-long boat with only about 2 to 3 inches of free board above the water line,” Blakely observes. “We have several groups of hunters every year here on Reelfoot who sink their boats. We use a big War Eagle boat that’s 27-inches tall to carry our duck hunters and decoys back and forth to the blinds and also to rescue otClick to enlargeher duck hunters when they sink their boats. If you don’t respect the water, put too many people in the boat and sink it, that cold water definitely will hurt you. Each season we rescue five or six duck-hunting parties who overload their boats and then go out in rough water.”

2) Improperly brushing your blind – “Some hunters will put cane brush over their blind to conceal it,” Craig explains. “Then they’ll pull that covered blind into a hardwood timber spot where cane has never grown. If you’re hunting in a timber hole, you need to be using oak brush or stinkweed, which blends in with the surroundings. That cane, which turns yellow after it dies and looks like a bright yellow caution light, will spook ducks. Too, some duck hunters don’t cover up their shooting holes. We try to hide our shooting holes as much as possible with brush to keep the ducks from looking straight down into the holes.”

3) Talking too much, especially to the caller – “If the caller is talking to the hunters and looking at them, he’s not looking for ducks,” Upchurch emphasizes. “The person whose head is out of the blind needs to be looking for ducks and not at hunters. If the ducks see you before you spot them, you wClick to enlargeill spook them. The caller needs to be rude to everyone in the blind and doesn’t need to answer questions or talk to the other hunters. He needs to have all his attention focused on looking for ducks. In addition, if the weather is foggy or still, nobody should talk in the blind. On those kinds of mornings, you’ll usually hear the ducks before you see them. If they hear you, they will spook. Ducks can hear people a long way on a still or a foggy morning.”

4) Not knowing where to shoot – “When you’re hunting out of blind like we do here at Blue Bank Resort, you can’t shoot too far to the left or the right because usually a hunter’s on either side of you,” Blakely says. “Many people get excited when a large flight of ducks comes in to the blind, and they quit paying attention to the other hunters. A couple of years ago we had hunters in our blind when a huge flight of ducks arrived. Most of the hunters had finished hunting but one of the hunters still had his gun pointed out of the blind when the hunter next to him spotted a duck leaving the decoy. The hunter swung to shoot the duck and shot 2 inches off the barrel of the hunter next to him. He never saw the gun outside of the shooting port when he swung too far to his left. Just remember to never shoot too far to your left or right. When the shooting ends, put your safety on, and place the gun back in the blind, pointed straight-up. We have broom holders that we buy at the hardware store in ouClick to enlarger blinds. You can put rubber on these broom holders to make them hold your shotgun secure and stand straight up in the blind.”

5) Bringing a dog that’s not fully trained to the duck blind – “I’ve had hunters bring dogs to the duck blind and swear they were blue-ribbon champions, well-trained and extremely duck savvy,” Blakely recalls. “Invariably, when the dog looks up and sees ducks, that dog will run out to the dog platform and start barking at the ducks before they get within shooting range. When I get a dog like that in the blind, I usually tie him to the steering wheel of the boat, which stays under the blind. Never take an untrained dog on a duck hunt because that dog can mess up the hunting for everyone.”

6) Not having enough movement in the decoys – “When ducks are on the water, they’re moving,” Upchurch says. “As the ducks move, they create ripples on the water. If a flight of ducks sees a group of decoys on the water, and the water’s not moving, they know this situation is unnatural. We use either a mallard machine that creates waves on the water or decoys on a jerk string to put ripples on the water. Especially on days with no wind, you have to artificially create ripples on the water.”

7) Not bringing sunglasses to hunt with – “Since ducks can come from any direction, if you don’t have sunglasses, you can’t see the ducks that come from the east in the morning as the sun’s rising because the sun will be in your face,” Craig explains. “Billy Blakely's blind faces the east, and the ducks come in from the east. Therefore, if you don’t have sunglasses, you won’t see most of the ducks you’re trying to shoot because the sun will be in your face. We prefer that our hunters bring polarized sunglasses with them.”

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

To learn more about War Eagle Boats waterfowl – hunting capabilities, go to, or call, (870) 367-1554.

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 5