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Banding Together for Waterfowl

Tips for Hunting-shy Ducks

  • photo by Avery Outdoors
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Story at a Glance

3 Tips to Cover:

  • Increase the realism of your spread
  • Call less; call quieter
  • Keep covered; keep still

By Wade Bourne

It's necessity of change tactics when the hunting conditions are poor. When the wind is slack, the sky overcast and the temperature warm, hunters must adjust. These conditions make the birds spooky, and they take more convincing to lure into range.

The following are proven tips in pulling in ducks made wary by poor hunting conditions and heavy gunning pressure.

Increase the Realism of Your Spread

When the wind is up and the sun is bright, you don't need a feather-perfect decoy spread to pull ducks in. However, on still, cloudy days, the ducks get a much better look. It's easier for them to circle a spread, because they're not buffeted by gusts. And the lack of shadows reveals much greater decoy detail to their discerning eyes.

There are several things hunters can do to increase a spread's realism. One is to add movement, as described above. Real ducks keep a quiet hole of water alive with ripples. Decoys should do likewise.

There are many options for making decoys move. Jerk strings, motorized decoys, water shakers and other devices will solve the no-movement dilemma. Waterfowl specialty catalogs feature an array of such products. On slow bird days, they are tickets for action.

Hunters should also keep their decoys' paint fresh and bright. A little touch-up during the off-season handles this problem. Another trick is to keep mud washed off decoys so their colors show clearly. An old soft-bristle brush is good for scrubbing mud away.

Sleeper and confidence decoys add realism. I scatter a half dozen sleeper mallards through my spread. (Ducks are lazy on warm, still days.) I also toss several coot decoys around the outer edge of my spread for a more natural appearance.

Another ruse is to set a line of stand-up field decoys on a log at the edge of my spread. Ever notice how real ducks climb up and rest and loaf on logs? Simulating this adds convincing power to circling birds. I nail these decoys' bases to the log to hold them in place when the wind blows.


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