7. Diver Decoys For Mallards
(Chad Belding, Avery Pro Staff, Nevada)
Late in the season when mallards get leery of decoys, try using canvasback decoys only (if these diving ducks frequent the area you are hunting). Set three dozen to four dozen canvasbacks in a tight grouping. If hunting over ice, chop out a hole, put the canvasback decoys in the open water, and surround the hole with a dozen to two dozen snow goose or swan decoys. "Passing ducks can see those white decoys from far off, and they'll come to them," Belding explains. "This spread might look strange to the human eye, but the mallards love it."
8. Don't Homestead; Move to the Birds
(Marc Pierce, Ducks Unlimited TV, Montana)
Instead of "homesteading" in a spot where ducks aren't working, hunters should employ a "run-and-shoot offense." Keep moving until you find the place where ducks want to land. Changes in wind, weather, water levels, and other conditions cause ducks to work different areas from one day to the next, and success comes far easier through being where the birds want to be. Small boats, waders, decoys in a backpack, and other gear will facilitate making a quick move when one is called for. Pierce stresses that the main thing is to avoid "camping" in a spot where there is no action. "When the ducks are going elsewhere," he says, "you have to be ready to follow them and set up quickly in a new location."
9. Freshen Up Your Blind
(Trevor Matthews, Ducks Unlimited, Alberta)
You can be in the best of locations, but if your blind, coffin blind, layout boat, or pit isn’t camouflaged adequately, ducks and geese will flare. That's why Trevor Matthews makes time during the season to freshen the brush on his blinds. "I'm a detail person when it comes to camouflaging my blinds," Matthews says. "I like to use brush that's natural to where I'm hunting. I'll fill any holes and cover anything that might shine. I do this before opening day, and then I'll refresh my camo several times as the season wears on. The last thing I want to see is a duck flaring because it sees something unnatural."
10. Make Waves With A Jerk String
(Steve Bowman, Arkansas)
"The thing that draws ducks to decoys is water movement," says Steve Bowman, "and one of the best ways to create movement is with an old-fashioned jerk string. This is no big secret, but a lot of young hunters who came up with spinning-wing decoys have never used a jerk string." Bowman makes a portable jerk string by removing the measuring tape from a hand-wind carpenter's tape and replacing it with a length of nylon trotline string. Thus, the carpenter's tape becomes a line holder and a means of winding line in without it tangling. "Buy a big carpenter's tape that's strong and has a lot of capacity," Bowman says. "You may have to hollow out a hole so it'll take up the nylon string. Tie a heavy swivel on both ends of the line, and tie a bungee cord on the opposite end from the tape holder. If I'm hunting in shallow water, I'll tie the bungee cord to a tree or bush. If I'm hunting out of a boat, I'll take a gallon milk jug filled with concrete as an anchor in the deeper water. Then once I've stretched out and anchored my line, I'll attach two or three decoys where I want them, and I've got a quick jerk string that'll move a lot of water when ducks are working."