Have you ever wondered why on some days the ducks just will not drop into shooting range? It can be a very frustrating situation and sometimes there is nothing you can do that will get them to commit to your spread; however, here are 5 things you should definitely try to avoid to increase your chances of getting the mallards into the blind this fall!
1. Not Being Concealed Enough
Believe it or not, ducks have amazing vision. They also have the advantage when they are flying because of their aerial views. You want to make sure that your blind blends in well with your surroundings. Many duck hunters, including us at first, do not pay enough attention to what their blind or boat would look like from a duck’s vantage point. You can spend a lot of time camouflaging the front of your blind, but the only thing you are hiding from is your decoys. Also, be sure to use camouflage materials and paint that does not have a shiny finish to it. Ducks can spot that reflective shine from a long way and will be sure to flare when they notice that reflection wasn’t there a day ago.
2. Not Adjusting Your Decoy Spread
We are still trying to figure out which decoy spread produces the best for us and honestly, I am not sure we will ever find one solution that will “always” be productive. Ducks don’t always sit exactly the same way while they are on the water; yes, they do have some tendencies, but each duck still has their own brain and will do what they want and move to where they want at any given time. If you have several ducks flying over your spread and not finishing, it is likely that they are not sensing a natural decoy spread or they are not seeing a safe place to land in that spread. Don’t just sit there and expect things to change. You need to get out there and adjust your decoys. Sometimes it is only a matter of moving one or two decoys to get them to drop in, other times it take a full on change of strategy. Don’t be lazy, it can make a huge difference.
3. Not Playing the Wind Direction Properly
We understand that sometimes this is uncontrollable due to the available public areas to hunt, but when possible it is crucial to play the wind direction. Most duck hunter know that ducks prefer to land while facing into the wind. You want to make sure that you either have a cross wind or a wind blowing away from you. There are other factors to consider as well, but for the most part the first priority is to play the wind. For example, Tom and I were hunting for wood ducks a small lake in Chautauqua County, NY. Of course, the weatherman was wrong in his wind direction forecast and the area we were hunting made it impossible for us to play the wind appropriately. The wind was blowing directly in our faces and sure enough, the woodies all landed into the wind on the other side of the lake and out of shooting range.
4. Poor Calling
I am not going act like I am a good duck caller, because I know my duck hunting buddies will call me out on that pretty quickly; however, I do know when to shut up. The saying “no calling is usually better than bad calling” is pretty accurate. If you can’t make your duck call sound like a duck, then you might as well keep it in your pocket. If you can make it sound like a duck, use it minimally. If you know what you are doing with a duck call, then I do not need to explain this any further, you know what you are doing. Practice in the off season, not in the duck blind, and your hunting buddies will still hunt with you.
5. Too Much Movement in the Blind
Most hunters are pretty good at being still when there is game around them, but when hunting waterfowl the game changes quite a bit. When hunting deer or other game on land, we can just turn our heads slightly to see them or listen for leaves and sticks crunching to know where our game is. Ducks fly in the air which requires us to pick up our heads to see them. Many duck hunters have a tendency to pick up their heads as soon as their buddy says “bird” and most of the time, the ducks flare and head off into the landscape. Ducks have keen eyesight and can spot that slight movement from a long way. What makes it even more difficult is that there’s usually more than one duck, which means there’s more than two eyes watching for you. Try to train yourself to freeze when someone informs you there are birds in the vicinity until you know exactly where they are and it’s safe to get your eyes on them. Most of the time it is best to let one person watch the birds and wait for them to call the shot until you move at all.
Learn From Your Mistakes
Although I am guilty of doing each of these more than once, you will see significant increases in success if you are able to stray away from these mistakes. Duck hunting can be very challenging and you can learn something new during every outing if you really pay attention to how the ducks are reacting to you and your set up. Don’t just chalk a bad day up to “they just didn’t want to come in today”. Instead, take a closer look and figure out the true reasons why they didn’t want to commit. One of my favorite things about duck hunting is learning to overcome the challenge it presents.
Written By Chris Postle of Postletown Woods and Water.