9. Paul Sullivan, Pasco, WA
A professional guide for 35 years, Sullivan is also co-owner of Aero Outdoors, which manufactures Full-Curl Decoys. He hunts the same pond 80 to 90 days of the Pacific Flyway's 107-day season. "Our ducks get very shy in the latter half of the season," Sullivan says, "but here's what we do to continue to enjoy good shooting.
"First, we use realistic decoys," he explains. "Second, we cut way back on our calling. And third, we relocate the blind around the pond. (Sullivan hunts from a tube-framed blind that can easily be moved.) I don't want the ducks to figure out that the calling is coming from the same clump of brush," he explains.
Also, Sullivan doesn't place much emphasis on water movement, but he does use a Flutter-Wing motion decoy mounted on a pole inside the spread. (When he pulls a string, the wings flap.) "I can pull it and let it rest when I want to," he says. "When it's resting, the wings always reposition so the dark side is up and the white side is down."
Sullivan says the main thing to remember for decoy-shy ducks is not to show them the same setup every day. "Change the number of decoys and the shape of the spread," he advises. "Move the blind. Just keep changing things up so the birds don’t get used to the same old set day after day."
10. Billy Gianquinto, Santa Rosa, Calif.
Gianquinto is a retired schoolteacher, coach and TV-show host who now travels the West Coast running duck-calling seminars. He hunts mainly along the California coast north of San Francisco and also in the Central Valley. He says the birds in these areas become "notoriously decoy-shy" from heavy hunting pressure. "I've learned how to hunt these birds out of necessity," he says. "You either adapt or you go home empty-handed."
"First, I scale down my spread," he explains. "By the last few weeks of the duck season, I may be setting out only 12 to 18 decoys. I also put out all drakes because the colors show up better. And I don't set any decoys farther than 25 yards from my blind. Decoy-shy ducks tend to swing the outer edges of the spread. If the spread is in close, you might still get a good passing shot. I place my decoys three to four feet apart. I like a relaxed look. And I start hunting from a coffin boat to eliminate above-ground blinds that can spook pressured ducks. My coffin boat shows only eight inches of freeboard. By camouflaging the opening and lying back in the boat, I have no profile. The ducks never know I'm there, and they come in without fear."