15. Teach Your Dog to Hunt Beyond the Decoys
(John Amico, Deep Fork Retrievers, Oklahoma)
When making water retrieves, some young retrievers get stuck in the middle of a decoy spread and start circling, never understanding that the bird has fallen beyond the decoys. This happens because the spread itself is a terrain change that the young dog needs to learn to negotiate. John Amico explains how to overcome this problem. "Set a dozen decoys on the left and a dozen on the right, leaving an open lane six to eight feet wide down the middle. Start out with short retrieves in the lane, working your dog back gradually until it is well past the decoys. Once the dog handles this comfortably, move the decoys together into one group and repeat the succession of retrieves, first in the decoys and then beyond. It won't take long for the dog to learn to ignore the decoys and go for the bird."
16. Sound Like Two Ducks
(Mark Prudhomme, Knight & Hale Ultimate Hunting Team, South Carolina)
When hunting pressure makes ducks call-shy late in the season, hunters should try varying their calling style to avoid sounding like a caller. Mark Prudhomme says one good way to do this is by sounding like two ducks. "Vary your cadence, pitch, and volume to sound like two susies," he says. “With practice, you can learn to use your throat to make raspy sounds and then come back with 'straight air' for a clean, crisp call." This variation can also be achieved by blowing two different calls back-to-back or by having two callers work ducks together. "The point is, mix up your calls and sound as natural as you can," Prudhomme says.
17. Map Out Hunting Permission
When freelance hunting in new territory, a hunter's first stop should be the local county courthouse to pick up a land ownership plat map. Paul Sawyer, who hunts extensively in northern prairie states, says, "When we first get to an area we've decided to hunt, usually around a big lake or a refuge, we'll go to the county courthouse and purchase a plat map booklet that shows the landowner’s name on each plat. Most of these booklets also have landowners' phone numbers in the back. Then, if we find birds using a particular field, we don't have to go knocking on doors looking for the landowner. We can check our map, get the landowner's name and phone number, and call him to ask for hunting permission."