By Gary Koehler
My personal suspicion-meter went off almost immediately after my boss called me into his office to discuss a story idea. “Mistakes,” he said. “I want this feature to focus on the most common mistakes duck and goose hunters make.” It was as if he had been sitting next to me in the blind the past 40 years, taking notes.
Could he possibly have the evidence on film? How else could he have learned that I was the resident expert? Yes, I’ve made all the mistakes, from A to Z. Take, for example, the tried-and-true “one more swing” strategy. As in: “Let ’em get a little lower, one more swing, then we’ll take ’em.” In this case, the circling ducks can be counted on to magically disappear, never to be seen again.
While managing to commit any number of blunders on my own, too many of these mistakes occurred with witnesses present. My former Illinois River Valley cohorts would likely vote for making this piece book-length, a confession of sorts. The truth hurts. To say nothing of the recurring nightmares.
Instead of providing incriminating personal evidence of my own waterfowl hunting shortfalls, however, I opted to enlist the aid of experts, guys who have been there, seen that, and are quick to detect the little things that can make a big difference in the field. Rick Dunn, a former world duck calling champion, makes Echo Calls, and regularly prowls flooded Arkansas timber.
Dave Smith creates incredibly realistic decoys from his home in the Pacific Northwest. Sean Mann, a call maker and world goose calling champion of champions, hunts the Canadian prairie and the Atlantic Flyway every season. And then there’s the relative youngster, Tyson Keller, a member of the Avery pro staff from South Dakota who has built an impressive rep pursuing Central Flyway snow geese. Following is their list of the most common foul-ups made by waterfowlers.
We’ve all heard it before, but being well hidden remains one of the waterfowl hunter’s most important considerations. Birds are quick to detect movement on the ground. Not taking heed is mistake Numero Uno. Be still, no gawking, and cover up.
“Hiding properly is huge,” Smith says. “The main thing is you have to do something to make the birds focus on the decoys and not on your blinds. Most people don’t realize that even a well-camouflaged layout blind can be easily seen from the air—they’re not invisible. Instead, put the blinds well outside the decoy spread. If there is any contour or break in the landscape to help the blinds blend in, take advantage of it, even if you’re in the middle of a huge field.”
Keller, who has enjoyed success attracting huge flocks of snow geese to his decoy spread—seldom a simple task—believes that gunners diminish their chances of success by being careless about concealing themselves.
“Whether in layout blinds, pit blinds, or permanent blinds, one has to blend into the environment,” Keller says. “Not being hidden can ruin a great hunt. Any objects that are out of place in the field will be noticeable to birds.”