by Keith Sutton
Would you like to improve your waterfowling success and make each trip a bit safer and more enjoyable? These 30 tips could help.
Avoid Foul Weather "Fowl-ups"
Duck caller reeds sometimes freeze or stick in frigid weather. Prevent gum-ups by using a product such as Rain-X or Aquapel that's made to deter rain, snow and ice buildup on windshields. A few drops rubbed on the reed with a cloth make the reed less likely to stick in the heat of a cold-weather hunt.
Good as New Dekes
To make dirty duck decoys look as good as new, hang them on a fence, spray with automobile tire cleaner solution and allow to dry overnight. In the morning, the original colors will be brighter and easier for ducks to see.
A five-gallon plastic bucket with a lid can be painted camouflage or wrapped with camo duct tape to make a convenient dry storage container for your first aid kit, matches, shells, spare clothes and snacks. The bucket also makes a great seat.
Deke Bag Saver
Mesh bags sink and can be easily lost. Remedy this by tying a plastic, 16-ounce soft-drink bottle inside the bottom of the bag. Remove the label to eliminate bright colors and screw the cap down tight. You won't lose a decoy bag again.
Add action to your decoy spreads by running nylon cord from the blind, through the eye of a heavy anchor connected to a decoy in the center of the spread, and tying the line to the bill of the decoy floating over the anchor. When ducks come in range, a gentle tug on the line causes the decoy to tip up like a feeding duck.
A telescoping, fiberglass crappie fishing pole provides an ideal means for raising and working a goose flag or kite, which helps draw the birds' attention to your decoy spread.
Stir it Up
When hunting clear water, use your feet to muddy the water around your decoys. Duck activity creates muddy water, and a muddy zone in an area of clear water is easy for ducks to spot.
Ask your grocer for an old hand-carried shopping basket to make a great storage box for dead ducks. Paint it to give a camo or earth-tone finish birds won't see. Then toss dead birds in it to keep them from freezing to your boat on cold days.
Magnums for Divers
Magnum decoys are standards for many diving duck hunters. They're seen at twice the distance, and their wide, flat bottoms eliminate roll and pitch—a dead giveaway to today's gun-wise ducks. Also, you can get away with fewer decoys. Three dozen magnums, properly rigged, present more flock attraction than five dozen standard-sized decoys.
Shell Deke Fix-up
The stake holes in plastic shell decoys often get worn and too large to properly hold stakes in place. You can repair the dekes with two-part epoxy and metal washers that will fit over the ends of your stakes. Use sandpaper to roughen the surface around the stake holes, and apply epoxy to the area. Place a washer on the epoxy and allow to dry. The washers create a tighter fit for your decoy stakes, which will help hold them in place.
Hold-downs for Pants
Do your pants ride up your legs when you slide into your waders? Remedy this aggravating problem by sewing two pieces of elastic to the bottom of each pants leg then putting them around the bottom of your feet before putting on your waders.
Need an easy way to move several dozen decoys from your clubhouse to your field-hunting blind? Try using a garbage can on wheels. A commercial can will hold two to three dozen standard duck decoys.
Casting for Ducks
If you don't have a retrieving dog and you're hunting a pond or stream too deep for wading, carry a casting rod and floating plug. You can cast to fallen ducks, hook and retrieve them.
Leaky Deke Ideas
Old decoys often split, crack and leak. Some can be patched with silicone. If they're beyond hope, remove the keels and use the decoys for field shells, or buy a lamp kit from a hobby store and turn the decoy into a light for your home.
Add Some Crows
Placing a few crow decoys to one side of a field spread for geese can increase your hunting success. These "confidence decoys" help lessen the wariness of geese by making the spread appear more lifelike.
Pocket Some Panty Hose
Your buddies may laugh, but if you hope to bag a special duck to have mounted by the taxidermist, snip one leg from a pair of panty hose and keep it in your pocket. After you kill the bird, rinse blood from its feathers, then place the duck head-first in the panty hose. This keeps all feathers in place so you get a nicer mount.
Light Up Leaks
To find a leak in your waders, put a drop cord light inside the waders and turn off all lights in the room. The light inside the waders will glow through worn or broken fabric, and you can easily mark the spots for patching.
Use a wine-bottle cork to camouflage your face when duck hunting. Singe the end of the cork with a lighter, then rub the black residue on your face.
Plucking waterfowl is easier if you wear a rubber thimble of the kind used by bank tellers for counting currency.
Solo Boat Launching
One-man launching is simpler if you tie the craft to your trailer (around the winch works well) with about 10-20 feet of rope. Back up until the boat starts to float, and tap the brakes. Drive forward a few feet. The boat should now float off the trailer, but not away. Untie it and walk it back to the shore or dock. This way you can launch fast and stay dry.
Add Some Sparkle
Blue prism tape (available at tackle shops for customizing fishing lures) can be used to make the speculums on your mallard decoys more dazzling. Paint the whole speculum patch white and then, when the paint dries, apply the tape. This added touch can make decoy-shy birds come those final few yards.
Choke Tube Containers
Prescription drug containers with child-proof caps make handy storage containers for choke tubes.
Decoy Line Holders
Use 1/2-inch-wide, heavy-duty rubber bands (available at office supply stores) stretched over the keel to hold your decoy lines in place and keep the line set at the proper depth.
In a Pinch Patch
Sprung a leak while away from home? You can fix a small leaky hole in your boat hull using a toilet bowl wax ring. Work the wax into the cut and over the surrounding surface. The wax is sticky enough to apply and adhere under water and cleans up easily when you're ready to do a permanent repair job back home.
Put a Stop to Chewing
If your new hunting dog pup is chewing up everything in camp, try spraying boots, leashes and other chewables with diluted lemon juice. The sour flavor should end your puppy's bad behavior.
Make a Seat
Need a place to sit while hunting your favorite marsh? Build a hunting seat from two pieces of 2" x 4" lumber. Determine a comfortable height for your seat, then add about one foot. Cut the first board to this length. Next, cut two angled pieces from the end of this board, forming a point you can push into the bottom of the marsh. Cut a smaller piece of board for the seat. Attach the two pieces of wood together with wood screws so the finished result is a T-shaped seat. Finish the seat with camouflage-colored paint, and you can relax on your next waterfowl hunt.
Grease ‘em Up
A little Vaseline rubbed on the heads of your drake decoys helps repel dirt and water and adds extra sheen that is far more attractive to "lookers."
A telescoping golf-ball retriever, like those used by golfers to retrieve balls from water hazards, can be modified to pick up decoys and retrieve ducks from thick cover. Remove the ball-retrieving end and replace it with a hook. Your dog won't have to retrieve birds in nasty cover, and you can keep your hands dry on cold mornings. The telescopic retriever folds to a compact size and can be carried in a decoy bag.
The lodges of muskrats and nutrias make good seats for duck hunters when a boat isn't available. You can lay back on a lodge and look skyward for decoying ducks. And if you wear camouflage clothing made for marsh hunting, you'll be well hidden, which encourages ducks to pitch right in.
Tips and Tails
When ducks are flying toward you, it's best not to call. Old-timers have a saying: "Call only to tips and tails." That is, do your calling when you can see one wingtip and the tail, or both wings and the tail. The duck won't be looking your way then, so it's safe to blow the call.