John's Journal...


When To Make The Call And Aggravating The Guide

Click to enlarge Editor’s Note: Ducks and geese rained from the sky like a giant black cloud. Although making an exact count was difficult, the cloud appeared to have 300 to 400 ducks in it, a flight of 20 speckle-bellied (white-fronted) geese and about 50 Canada geese. I waited in my Ameristep bale blind for Bob (Rip) Clark of Edmonton in Alberta, Canada, to call the shot. When I finally heard him say the words I’d been waiting for, “Take ‘em,” the Canada geese had dropped down through the swarm of ducks and were right in front of my layout blind.

When To Make The Call:
Sometimes there will be hundreds of ducks and geese in the air. Knowing when to make the call to take the shot is critical to the success of a waterfowl hunt. Some guides will try to get all the birds that are in the air within shooting range before they make the call. Click to enlargeOther guides will call for the shot when 6 to 12 birds out of a huge flock are within gun range. I asked Clark when he made the call for the hunters to take the shot. “If there are 5 or 6 birds working into the decoy spread, they have their wings cupped and their feet stretching for the ground, and there are another 30 to 50 birds behind those 5 or 6 that are working toward the decoys, I’ll go ahead and call the shot to take that first 5 or 6,” Clark answers. “Even if there are 30 to 50 geese coming in, four hunters are only going to take 5 or 6 geese. If you don’t take those first 5 or 6 geese, you run the risk of the bigger flock with more eyes in the air seeing the hunters or deciding something isn’t right in the spread. My rule of thumb is ‘shoot the birds in the decoys, and don’t worry about the birds that may come in behind them.” Because each hunter at Dog ‘N Duck could take 8 dark geese, 20 light geese and 8 ducks, I asked Clark if ducks and geese generally were coming in at the same time when he called the shot. “This call depends on the hunters,” Clark says. “Some hunters primarily want to take geese, and then worry about taking ducks. But most of my hunters don’t really care whether they take their limit of ducks or of geese first. So unless the hunters want to take geese first, I usually call the shot on the first birds that come into the spread, which is usually Click to enlargeducks. However, if my hunters want to wait for the geese, I’ll let the ducks land in the spread and not call the shot until the geese are in the decoys."

How To Aggravate A Guide In The Blind:
When a guide and a hunter were in a blind together, you often would be shoulder-to-shoulder, or in coffin blinds (layout blinds), you might only be a few feet apart. When I asked Clark what aggravated him about his hunters, he answered, “When we’re hunting from coffin blinds, I usually ask my hunters to wear headnets. But even then, I’ll have some hunters who want to sit up really high in the blind and constantly be turning and looking for the ducks and geese to come into the spread. When that hunter has his head moving like a bobble-head doll, he flares the geese and ducks I’ve been trying to call into the decoys, and then he wonders why he’s not getting to shoot. I try to call the shot so that all the hunters on the hunt will have birds at which to shoot. I get really irritated when I have a hunter in a bale blind, and he jumps up and starts shooting before I call the shot. He generally won’t get as good a shot as he will have gotten if he’s waited for me to call the shot, and he usuallyClick to enlarge causes the birds to flare so that the other hunters either don’t get a shot or have to take a poor shot. Some guys just can’t wait to take the shot.

“On another hunt where birds were really pouring in, I could hear a gun rattling in the blind just before I called the shot. Of course, that noise and movement in the blind flared the ducks and geese. After three different flights had been flared, I finally went over to the hunter and asked, ‘What are you doing?’ ‘My gun is jammed and I’m trying to fix it,’ that hunter said. I fixed the man’s gun and told him to sit absolutely still in his blind until I had called the shot. By the end of the hunt, the noisy hunter with the jammed gun limited out.”

To learn more about Dog ‘N Duck, call (780) 913-1337 or (780) 416-3825, e-mail, or visit



Check back each day this week for more about WATERFOWLER'S HEAVEN WITH JOHN E. PHILLIPS...

Day 1 - The Beginning of a Great Hunt
Day 2 - Exciting Hunts At Dog ‘N Duck
Day 3 - When To Make The Call And Aggravating The Guide
Day 4 - Why Clark Doesn’t Use A Dog
Day 5 - Sky Carp



Entry 272, Day 3