By Wade Bourne
What's the most useful garment a waterfowl hunter can wear? It just might be the thinking cap. True, this figurative head covering might not keep the rain off or the chill away, but wearing it will certainly put more ducks and geese in the bag. Thinking hunters – those who are resourceful and willing to experiment – are invariably more successful than those who stick to the same old game plan from one year to the next. Ducks and geese change, and hunters have to do likewise to stay a step ahead of their quarry.
The following tips for better waterfowling, compiled from some of the most innovative hunters in the country, might give you an edge this season.
1. Let Your Lab Run Wild for Geese
(Dean Tretter, Cane Ridge Hunting Club, Indiana)
When you are hunting Canada geese in a field or on ice and birds are passing at a distance, send one or more black Labrador retrievers into the decoys and encourage them to run freely. This will impart movement throughout the spread, which helps attract the geese. When you have the birds' attention and they're coming, call the dog back into the pit or blind. "Having a black dog running through the decoys is better than using flags or wing-spinners because the movement is all over the spread, not just in one spot," Tretter says. "I guarantee, this really works." Tretter adds that this trick is especially effective in a snow-covered field.
2. Call Working Ducks Once
(Barnie Calef, Hunters Specialties Pro Staff, Iowa)
If ducks see your decoys and start working on their own, don't call until they make their downwind swing. Then issue one quick comeback call to pull them around the corner and back toward the decoys. World champion caller Barnie Calef says, "This is what real ducks do in the wild. You don’t hear birds on the water call a lot while a flock is approaching, but it's common to hear a hen give a quick four- or five-note call after the birds pass overhead. This usually spins those downwind ducks right around. It's the right call at the right time to get them to commit to landing."