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Banding Together for Waterfowl

Duck Hunting Flooded Grainfields

Flooded grainfields are consistently among the most productive waterfowling hotspots
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Open Field Calling Tactics

All three pro’s agree that loud, persuasive calling is best in open fields when a large flight of ducks is working. “Sometimes we get up to a thousand mallards circling a blind, and when we do, I call as hard as I can until it’s time to shoot,” Mackey instructs. “That many ducks in the air together make a lot of noise, and they can’t hear you if you back off with the call. You’ve got to keep hammering them, or you’ll lose them.”

Boyle, a former national duck calling champion, blows a highball style of calling which originated at Reelfoot Lake, Tennessee. “I call ducks with braggadocio,” he says with typical immodesty. “I call loud and incessantly. I’ll blow continuous five-note highballs until they’re inside 200 yards, then when I know they’re working (level flight, wing beats slowing down), I’ll switch to three-note hurry-ups on a descending scale. When they’re in close, I’ll blow lonesome hen quacks and a resting chuckle. And when they sail downwind, I’ll get on ’em again with loud calling.”

Boyle professes that some hunters would fare better not calling at all instead of calling poorly. “If you don’t know how to call, if you have no sense of rhythm or tone, leave the call in your pocket. Or blow a sprig whistle. You’ll be better off doing this than making ungodly sounds with a duck call.”

McCarty changes his calling style each day, according to what the ducks are responding to best. “On clear, cold, breezy days, they like a lot of calling. On warm, still days, it’s easy to overcall. So I give ’em a lot if they want a lot and give ’em a little if they want a little. It’s a trial-and-error thing each morning.”

Managing Hunting Pressure

One final key to success in open fields is managing hunting pressure to keep ducks using a field.

“We increase or decrease pressure according to how many new ducks we have in our area,” Mackey explains. “If there hasn’t been much recent migration, we’ll back off on a field, maybe just hunt it a couple of hours a day. The goal is to make sure some ducks stay there. Then they’ll draw new ducks when the migration picks back up. There’s no better way to attract ducks to a field than to have live birds already there.”

Another thing Mackey does is refrain from hunting during the first half hour before sunrise. “We don’t like to shoot ducks that are roosting in our fields. Instead, we’ll wait until there’s good light, then we’ll go to the blind and run the ducks out of the field without shooting at them. This way we don’t educate them all at once. Then we’ll begin shooting as they filter back in a few at a time.”

McCarty normally hunts a field every other morning unless it’s beneath a major flyway that new ducks are traveling each day. “It’s not hard to overshoot a field; then you’ll have to rest it several days to get the birds back in it.”

Boyle simply spreads pressure out on his clubs by moving hunters from pit to pit and field to field. “I have the luxury of being able to do this,” he explains. “Other hunters who have just one field or pit must come up with their own system for keeping pressure light enough to keep the ducks coming.”

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