4. Making Rash Decisions
Scott Glorvigen of Grand Rapids, Minnesota, knows that old-hand duck hunters aren't immune to making imprudent mistakes, especially on opening day. A couple of years ago, he and his son Adam made plans to open the season on a wild rice lake north of town. They had intended to set up on an island they'd hunted before where ring-necked ducks and other divers liked to work.
"Our first mistake was me hitting the snooze button on the alarm, so we started off late," Glorvigen says. "Then when we got to the lake and motored out, we discovered that somebody had beaten us to our spot. So there we were. Shooting time was close, and we had to do something fast. I quickly motored around to the east side of the island, and we started tossing out decoys without much thought about how we were setting up. Then we hid the boat and crouched behind some cover on the shore to wait for the ducks to fly."
The ducks began coming in at dawn, and Glorvigen quickly realized his mistake. "We had a west wind at our back, and we were looking straight into this big bright fireball that's rising above the trees," Glorvigen says. "Those ringbills were screaming in like kamikazes, straight out of the sun. Shooting was brutal. After a few incoming flights, my son gave up and went walking up the shore, looking for another spot where he could pass-shoot. It was just a total mess."
Glorvigen compounded his first mistake of arriving late by making rash decisions when plans started falling apart. "If things don't go the way you expect, don't start floundering and making hasty decisions," he warns. Instead, stop and analyze where you need to set up. Consider the wind direction, the sun, available cover, and other important factors. Then take the time to set your decoys and hide properly. The extra time you spend doing these things will usually pay off in better shooting and a more enjoyable experience.
5. Not Having Adequate Concealment
Veteran hunter Tommy Akin of Greenfield, Tennessee, was a college student when he made an opening day mistake that he still chuckles about today. "We'd had a very dry fall, and water was scarce in the bottoms where my buddies and I hunted," he says. "But a few days before the season opened, we found a place where beavers had dammed up a ditch and backed about five acres of shallow water into an adjacent field."
The landowner hadn't farmed this spot because it was too wet, so it had grown up in smartweed. "Several hundred mallards and other ducks were coming there early each morning to feed," Akin says. "We wanted to hunt there, but there was no cover; it was totally open. So we came up with a game plan."
Three days before the season started, Akin and his partners slogged into this pothole before dawn and erected a post-and-chicken-wire blind by flashlight. The idea was to finish the blind before the ducks started arriving at dawn so as not to disturb the birds. "When we left there, it looked great," Akin says. But when they returned before dawn on opening day, they received a rude awakening. "There wasn't a stick of brush on our blind—not one. It was totally bare. Just posts and chicken wire. The beavers had found the fresh willows we'd put on the blind, and they'd carried every one off to their lodge."
This was a rare occurrence, to be sure, but it underscores the importance of concealment. As with other waterfowling equipment, blinds should be routinely inspected and maintained. Hunters should also make sure that their camouflage clothing matches the natural cover in their hunting area. This could mean wearing a green camo pattern in the early season, when there is still a lot of green leafy vegetation around.