2. Feed Your Retriever the Right Diet
"Good nutrition and conditioning for your dog are important," says Justin Tackett, host of Ducks Unlimited WaterDog. "A busy retriever is no different than a professional athlete. Their bodies start to break down from the bumps and bruises. Sure, they're having fun, but with that fun comes mental and physical stress. The dogs that are in the best condition and receive the best nutrition will be better off. Make sure your retriever is being fed a diet with at least 26 percent animal-based protein. I personally like 30 percent. And a working dog's diet should also have a heavy dose of fat, at least 18 percent."
3. Spread Out in a Strong Wind
Casey Lewis of Lewis Outdoor Adventures routinely encounters strong winds in his Wyoming goose fields. He's found that when decoys are set behind his layout blinds in such a wind, geese often hang long enough to pick out imperfections. "When birds hover overhead and see the backs of the blinds, the game is usually over," Lewis says. "So in a strong wind, we set the spread a good distance from us downwind and leave plenty of room for the birds to land. Sometimes the decoys will be 70 yards away. When birds come over them, we stay on them with the call and flag, and they'll often finish within 30 yards of the blinds."
4. Sound Like a Raft
Mississippi call maker Greg Hood advises hunters to think beyond the basics when calling ducks. "I want my decoy spread to sound like a raft of live ducks, and if you listen to a raft of ducks, they don't perform a calling routine," Hood says. He advises hunters to break up greeting and comeback calls with various pitches and cadences, and not to underestimate a duck's hearing. "Getting a duck's attention doesn't take as much volume as many people think. When you're sitting in a blind and suddenly hear a hen quacking, you usually think she's very close. But a lot of times, when you look for her, she's just a tiny speck in the sky. Your sounds carry the same way."
5. When in Doubt, Use Oak
Tennessee waterfowl guide Steve McCadams has been brushing duck blinds for more than 40 years, and in most situations, he believes oak brush is the way to go. "From swamps and green timber to open water and flooded fields, brushing blinds with oak seems to work the best," he says. "Cane and various materials can be used to touch things up, but oak limbs are hard to beat for camouflage that lasts all season and blends in with most backgrounds—even when no trees are nearby." McCadams prefers white oak limbs cut before the first frost. "The leaves seem to stay on the limbs much better if they're cut while green."