John's Journal...

Secrets of the Duck-Hunting Pros

Jeff Poe of Lake Charles, Louisiana

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: Every day of duck season professional duck guides have to produce ducks for their clients because hunters who have paid their money expect to have ducks in the decoys to take. We’ve interviewed guides from several points of the United States and Canada to learn their secrets. Today, we talk with Jeff Poe of Lake Charles, Louisiana, the owner of Big Lake Guide Service. Poe has guided duck hunters every day of duck season in the marshes around Lake Calcasieu for the past 25 years and has learned numerous secrets to help his customers take ducks.

Identify the Blinds that Produce Ducks:
Poe always identifies which blinds produce ducks. “One of the secrets to finding and taking ducks is to determine why some blinds produce, and others don’t. Fly in a small place over the area you’re hunting during waterfowl season. You’ll see where most of the ducks are concentrated, how the blinds are set up, and how the Click to enlargedecoys are put out for the most-effective spreads. You’ll be able to see what the ducks see when they come over  your region. Then you can spot problems with your blind and your decoys that you’ll never see from water level.” 

Trick Stale Ducks:
A stale duck in Louisiana – either one that has frequented the area throughout both splits in the season or a homegrown duck – has memorized the locations ofeach blind, its decoy spread and the calls each hunter likes. “To take these stale ducks, I’ll change where I set-up,” Poe says. “Instead of hunting from a permanent blind with 200 decoys, I’ll move away and build a blind made of marsh grass in a little pocket or pothole.  I’ll only put out six decoys, and I’ll pull marsh grass up around me to hide me. Too, I reduce the amount of calling I use. But, if a duck flies by my decoys and doesn’t acknowledge them, I won’t sit still. I’ll call to that duck. You can break some stale ducks and cause them to return to your decoys with your calling. If I break the duck, and it turns, I’ll tone-down my calling and use a drake pintail call, which sounds like a fluttering whistle, instead of a mallard call. I also may use a mallard drake call but not a hen mallard call.”

Know What to Do In Non-Windy and Windy Situations:Click to enlarge
Often a hunter will have a miserable day of duck hunting with a bluebird sky and no wind. Poe uses a Mojo Spinning-Wing Decoy, jerk cords on his decoys or a Mallard Machine to move his decoys. “You’ve got to put some kind of motion on your decoy spread for it to look real,” Poe advises. On a very-windy day, the wind will blow your shot string and cause you to miss the ducks. Poe shoots some of the newer loads made from alloys heavier than lead like Hevi or Bismuth shot. “Even when shooting straight downwind, steel shot isn’t nearly as effective as the heavier alloy shot is,” Poe reports. “If you’re shooting in a crosswind, you must lead the duck and the wind to shoot effectively. That’s just too much for me to think about and my clients too. If my clients are missing badly, I’ll often suggest they aim dead-on at one of my styrofoam decoys, 30 yards from the blind. Then in a 30-mile-per-hour crosswind, a hunter’s shot string will land 3-feet downwind of the decoy.”

Treat Call-Shy Ducks Carefully:
“When I know I’m calling to a call-shy duck, I’ll quit giving the hail call and only use the chattering, feeding call,” Poe says. “You have to make different calls and sequences of calls to bring-down ducks that hunters have called to all over the flyway. Most people will give a hail call, next quack and then chatter. The ducks already have heard this sequence of calls probably 1,000 times in a season. I’ll start with a feeding call when I’m  dealing with call-shy ducks. If the ducks fly on past and don’t break to the decoys, I will hit them with a hail call then.”

Learn How to Hunt with Another Blind ClosClick to enlargee-by:
“If another hunter sets up his duck blind close to yours, you’ll have to work the ducks tighter to keep ducks coming to your decoys,” Poe emphasizes. “Here’s my secret tactic. As soon as a duck passes my blind, I’ll start blowing my calls before it gets close to the other blind.  I want to pull that duck as close to my blind as quickly as I can. I need to keep that duck straight up above me and working straight down to my blind, rather than allowing it to swing way out past my blind and having pull that duck back to my blind.”

Use Coot Decoys:
In Poe’s decoy spread, he likes a number of coot decoys, another secret technique that pays-off for him. According to Poe, “Ducks like coots, and coots in your spread convince ducks that the decoy spread is real. Too, even high-flying ducks can spot the black on a coot decoy. I also use pintail drake and male mallard decoys to make my spread realistic-looking. Generally I only put out a few hen mallard decoys in my spread.”

To hunt with Jeff Poe, visit, call (337) 598-3268, or email

Tomorrow: Billy Blakely

Check back each day this week for more about "Secrets of the Duck-Hunting Pros"

Day 1: Jeff Poe of Lake Charles, Louisiana
Day 2: Billy Blakely
Day 3: Barnie Calef
Day 4: Chad Belding and Bob “Rip” Clark
Day 5: Snake River Secrets with Thayne Barrie


Entry 488, Day 1