Greg Karnes is a partner in a hunting operation called Sportsman's Lodge in Sifton, Manitoba, west of gigantic Lakes Manitoba and Winnipegosis. From a waterfowler's perspective, this region has it all-big water and small potholes, and clouds of puddle ducks and divers. Karnes' guides lead his guests to a variety of shooting, but the lodge's specialty is gunning canvasbacks and redheads over decoys set along windswept shorelines bordering open water.
"I always hunt the downwind side of the lake," Karnes says. "I know most hunters believe you should hunt the upwind, calm side of the lake. But, ducks in sheltered water don't stir around much; they just stay put, whereas ducks fly better where the water's rougher. So, I go where the waves are rolling. They offer better shooting than flat-water areas."
Karnes, however, doesn't drop his decoys in the throat of a stout blow. Instead, he starts where the water is rough, then looks for some little break-a curved-in shoreline, the lee side of a point, or some other lakeshore feature that offers a pocket or sliver of water that's calmer than adjacent areas directly in the wind. "This is the key," Karnes says. "A flight of ducks will be flying along a shoreline, and they'll come to a spot that offers some protection from the wind, however slight, and there are several ducks-or decoys-sitting there, and boom! They'll pop in on them before you have time to get your safety off!"
One other important point: Karnes prefers setting up where the wind is blowing parallel to the shore. His whole decoy strategy is built around a crosswind. He moves around from one day to the next, picking his hunting sites to suit this criterion.
Karnes likes to shoot from the bank in a blind made out of reeds or brush, or he and his partners will simply sit motionless with their backs to rocks. "If there's some cover behind you, you have a face mask on, and you don't move when the ducks are coming, they won't see you, or they don't care. They'll barrel right in.
His diver spread consists of approximately four dozen magnum canvasback and bluebill decoys mixed together. First, he sets a dozen decoys in a clump some 15 yards out from the downwind side of the blind. Then he moves to the upwind side of the blind and drops another, larger clump of decoys. (The open space between these two groupings is approximately 15 yards.) From this second group, Karnes runs a double line of decoys that curves outward and downwind, extending like a half-moon some 65 yards distant.