Sunday, September 26, 2010

10 Tips For A Successful Duck Hunt

Cold fronts have begun to sweep across much of the United States, bringing migrating waterfowl with them. Nothing gets a dedicated duck hunter's blood going so early in the morning like a flock of ducks coming in on short final. Duck season is still a few weeks away for most of the US, but now is the time to prepare for upcoming hunts.

Follow these 10 helpful tips to be successful on your next duck hunt.

1) Plan your hunt
This sounds simple, but so many hunters neglect to plan their hunt. Check the weather forecast so you know which direction the wind will be blowing from. Take the time to scout the area and see where the ducks are actually landing. Some hunting areas are too far to drive out and scout before you hunt, but with the internet distance isn't an issue. Fire up your favorite mapping website and scout from the air.

2) Pattern your gun before the hunt
Shotgun loads can be very finicky. Make sure that the ammunition you are shooting matches up to your gun and choke by patterning it before the hunt. You'll want to test the loads at 10 yards, to make sure it opens up fast enough, and again at 40 yards to see that it's still tight enough for longer shots. If the pattern isn't right, try a different load or switch your choke.

3) Practice with your dog
Man's best friend can get out of shape in between active hunting seasons. Make sure your retriever is up to the task by working out a couple of times a week before the season gets going.

4) Maintain your gear
There's no better way to sabotage your hunt than to ignore your gear until you're out trying to set everything up in the pre-dawn darkness. Don't wait until you get out to the field to find out that you've got damaged decoys, that your weights and cords resemble a tangled plate of spaghetti, or that the battery on your boat motor is dead. At least a week before your hunt you need to go over all of your equipment and ensure that it's clean and functional.

5) Eliminate shine
While you're maintaining your gear, keep an eye out for any shiny spots on your duck boat. It could be nothing more than a scratch allowing the aluminum hull to peek through, but that's all it takes for a sharp eyed duck to decide to land elsewhere. I like to carry a can or two of matte black or brown
paint to touch up spots like that.

6) Set your decoys correctly
There is no surefire pattern to use when setting decoys, but some hunters insist on using the "tried and true" J and U patterns. The pattern you use should be dictated by the wind and the layout of your hunting area. Be willing to change things up a bit, which brings me to my next point:

7) If it's not working, change something
When the ducks are just circling once or twice and flying on, settling 100 yards away, or flaring off just before they come in range, you need to change your setup. Don't be afraid to break cover and reset your decoys, move the blind to a better location, or touch up the camouflage on your boat. Waterfowl are sharp eyed creatures and will abort landing at the first sign of danger.

8) Have someone experienced calling the shots
Nothing irritates a group of hunters faster than someone who calls the shots poorly. It's tough some times to make the call when the ducks are at the exact distance you need them to be to get more than one shot off. Make sure you've got an experienced hunter who knows exactly when to shout "Take 'em!"

9) Don't overcall
Occasionally you'll need to call a lot to bring in the flocks, but more often than not I've found that calling intermittently with more variety works the best. When in doubt, call a little less.

10) Camouflage camouflage camouflage
Make sure that the camo you wear and use on the blind matches your environment. Realtree Hardwood camo is going to stick out like a sore thumb amongst the reeds of a duck pond. Take a lesson from what snipers do and turn your boat into a giant ghillie suit by tying on reeds, grasses and other foliage from your hunting area.

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