By Wade Bourne
Many of these problems result from the long layoff between hunting seasons. What was second nature last year now requires careful thought and planning. The adrenaline and excitement generated by opening day doesn't help matters. For all these reasons, you should never wait until the last minute to get all your proverbial ducks in a row. Instead, use the off-season wisely to plan things out in advance. That way, when the new season arrives, you can greet it with the confidence that comes from knowing you are well prepared and that everything is in working order in your little corner of duckdom.
Following are some of the most common opening day mistakes committed by waterfowlers, and ways to avoid making them:
1. Hunting in the Wrong Spot
It was a shocking discovery back then. But now, in retrospect, it seems merely a laughable error. When we were teenagers, a friend and I spent two long summer days building a duck blind near a shallow flat on a newly impounded reservoir near our home in Tennessee. We waded in, toting boards, plywood, and wire. We used a sledgehammer to pound posts into the mud. We sawed, nailed, sweated—and sunburned—until finally our creation was complete. Before we left, we concealed our new blind with a thick layer of willow brush. Then we departed with high expectations of the fun we'd have when the season arrived.
We didn't return to our blind until the day before the season opened. We came to put out decoys, and that's when we got a big surprise. Our blind was high and dry—80 yards from the water's edge. We hadn't anticipated the reservoir's winter drawdown, which drained the water off the mudflat. What's more, all the leaves had fallen off the willow brush and only a few thin sticks muted our blind's boxy look.
The blind's lack of cover might have been easily fixed, but there was no getting around the fact that we had built it in the wrong spot. Despite all our preparations and hard work, we were not where the ducks were. Our opening day was a bust.