By Wade Bourne
I'm not sure there is such a thing as a 'bad wind' in waterfowl hunting. In my book, any wind is better than no wind. But for those who hunt from permanent blinds, every season brings days when the wind blows from a bad direction. Most permanent blinds and pits cannot be turned to adjust for shifting winds, so fixed-blind hunters are commonly confined to facing one direction. They have to make the most of their opportunities regardless of which way the wind is blowing.
Hunters may also encounter a bad wind when they are forced to hunt a particular location because of water conditions, cover availability, or the presence of other hunters. Sometimes the only way to hunt a spot is with the wind at your front or off to one side, not at your back.
We frequently have to deal with a bad wind at our club in western Kentucky. Our pit is buried on the eastern bank of a slough that runs north to south and is adjacent to the Mississippi River. In other words, the pit faces west—our only option for hunting this spot.
The problem is, the prevailing wind here ranges from northwest to southwest—in our face. With a westerly wind, the ducks come in behind us, which makes for some tricky shooting. Since we have a bad wind most days when we're hunting this spot, we have had to learn to adjust to it.
My partners and I put out a large number of decoys and leave them on the water throughout the season. Accordingly, our spread must be effective at pulling and positioning birds for close shooting in all wind directions. We achieve this by spreading decoys to the left and right of the pit, leaving an open landing area directly in front. This opening is about 15 yards wide and angles away on each corner like a funnel. Regardless of wind direction, most ducks orient to the landing hole. If working ducks attempt to land in another part of the spread, we try to 'steer' them into the landing hole with forceful calling.
When hunting with a smaller, temporary spread, decoys can easily be set to compensate for a bad wind and to land ducks where shooting is optimal. For instance, in a crosswind situation, I put the decoys off the upwind corner of the blind, running upwind. As a result, the touchdown point for birds descending toward the downwind edge of the spread is right in front of the blind.
When the wind is blowing into the front of the blind, hunters have two options: divide the spread and leave an open hole in front, as we do at our pit, or set a raft of decoys 25 to 35 yards out from the front of the blind. With this set, the idea is to have ducks approach from behind the blind and land between the blind and the decoys. Hunters shoot at the backs of the birds as they cup in.
Just as important as setting decoys to accommodate a bad wind is having someone in the hunting party who is the blind boss. Typically the lead caller, the blind boss calls the shots and makes sure others in the blind know what to expect when ducks are coming in. The blind boss watches ducks as they work, keeps partners apprised of the birds' location, and cues other hunters to imminent shots.
Such communication is especially crucial in a bad wind. When ducks are descending behind the blind or off its corners, some hunters might not be in a position where they can see the birds. Updates from the blind boss eliminate confusion and alert hunters to be ready to shoot.
Again, a bad wind really isn't bad. It just complicates things. Making the right adjustments to your spread and keeping all hunters aware of what's going on can overcome any disadvantage from an unfavorable wind.