5 Tips for Early Season Ducks 

Waterfowling is all about the details.

Hunt in the Middle of the Lake 

"When new ducks are coming into the area, they will usually go to the center of a lake or marsh," says guide and outfitter Mike McClelland of Pierre, South Dakota. "When I know there's a migration in progress, I scout late in the afternoon, and I'll go where I can watch the center of the lake or marsh. Then, if I see ducks working, I'll return before dawn the next morning to hunt. If it's a pothole lake, I'll set up in the opening closest to the center. If it's a reservoir, I'll look for a long point or an island in the middle of open water. These are the places where shooting will be best until those new ducks learn their way around."

Use Overhanging Limbs to Camouflage a Boat Blind

If you use a boat blind, hide your boat beneath low, overhanging tree branches. Position your boat next to a tree trunk and tie it up with stout rope to stabilize the shooting platform. Set up your portable blind, unrolling the cover to completely conceal the boat, and then use limb pruners to create shooting holes overlooking the decoys. But be careful to leave as much natural cover as you can, especially overhead, to conceal you and your blind. 

Don't Call When Ducks are Coming to a Spinning-Wing Decoy

Terry Demon is president of Mojo Decoys of Bastrop, Louisiana, which makes and markets the Mojo Mallard spinning-wing decoy. "One big mistake many hunters make is calling ducks that are locked up and coming to a spinning-wing decoy," he says. "As long as they're coming, don't blow the call. There's no reason to add encouragement if the ducks are committed. But if they start to turn away, blow the call to regain their attention. Then, when they're locked up and coming again, put the call down and let the spinning-wing decoy do its job."
 

Let Instinct Take Over When Figuring Lead

Having the right lead is essential in wing-shooting, but it's hard to learn leads. Each shot is different in terms of the angle and speed of the target. Some shots are head-on, some going away, and some passing at a 90-degree angle. If you have to consciously think about how much to lead a bird, you're probably going to miss. Instead, let instinct take over. Concentrate on focusing on your target and simply following it with your shotgun. Your brain will automatically figure how much lead to hold, and if your gun fits properly and you have good shooting form, you will connect. Yes, this sounds too easy, but this instinctive shooting method really works. Focus on the other shooting fundamentals, and lead will take care of itself.

Don't Shoot the Most Obvious Duck in a Flock

Longtime waterfowler Don Wright of Hopkinsville, Kentucky, says that when a flight of ducks pitches into the decoys, many hunters have the tendency to focus on the closest, easiest bird in the flock, and this invariably results in two or three shooters firing at the same bird. Instead, Wright intentionally takes a trailing duck on his first shot.  "I'll pick out a duck back in the flock, maybe one that's higher than the lead birds that are about to land in the decoys," he explains. "This way, I'm rarely competing with other hunters, and also my gun is in the right plane to take flaring birds on the second and third shot. If other hunters will do this, they'll be more efficient in their shooting, and they'll have the satisfaction of knowing they downed ducks that nobody else was shooting at."