Tips for Taking More Late-Season Ducks
Talk Like a Duck and Think Like a Webfoot
Editor’s Note: On some days and at certain times, ducks just won’t work for your calls and don’t always fly. However, on the days that the ducks do fly, they may work to the decoys, put their feet out and their wings up to light but then not come all the way to the decoys. Try these tactics I’ve learned from some of the nation’s best waterfowl guides and callers.
For success when duck hunting, you need to talk duck and think like a webfoot. Too, you have to recognize the differences in duckhunting and duck calling because as a hunter, you must know more about how to lure in the birds than simply how to call them. Often duck hunters make the mistakes of blowing their duck calls when they'll actually have more success if they stay quiet. Studying ducks, understanding the purpose and the placement of decoys, knowing how to camouflage properly and learning how to make a realistic blind setup also will spell the difference in the success or the failure of any waterfowling trip. Here are some late-season hunting tactics from duck hunters that will improve your waterfowling and increase your ability to take a limit of the whistling wings.
If you choose to hunt ducks rather than just call them, you have to rely more on your skill and knowledge of the birds. But even if you call waterfowl like you're a momma hen talking to her chicks and wear the best camouflage, you still must know where the ducks want to go. If you reach that area, you may not have to use any decoys or have great calling skills. Although ducks prefer to fly into certain locations, usually only ducks know why they like a particular region. Often ducks will frequent the same section of land for several years if they're not hunted more than once a week.
Learn to Call Ducks:
Find a proficient duck caller, learn the basic duck-calling skills from him, and then spend hours practicing at home, in your car and atyour workplace. But, try not to irritate fellow employees or drive your wife to the brink of insanity. You also need to know what calls to use when. If you don't call correctly or make a call at the wrong time, you'll scare more birds away from your blind than you'll call to it. Too, you need to learn how to put wind into your call properly.
Recognize the Working Duck:
Generally one duck in a flock of ducks will come to a call more willingly than the other birds. Focus your calling and energy on that bird. If you can learn to anticipate the moment when the duck will pull back into the flock and hit that duck then with a strong greeting call, that duck often can pull the entire flock down to your blind. You usually can identify this duck by what it does when it hears your call. A duck that wants to work will change the rhythm of its wingbeat, lock its wings and start to sail and/or begin to turn toward you when you call.
Use the Greeting Call:
If you only can use one call to bring in ducks, make it the greeting call. This attention-getting call gives a mama duck the ability to pull a flock of passing birds in to her. You've probably seen a hen mallard stretch her neck and give either a slow or a fast greeting call to pull down a flock of high-flying webfoots. You can use light greeting calls or feeding chuckles between your greeting calls. But that loud, hard calling usually lassos in the ducks and reels them in to you.
Don't Use the Right Call at the Wrong Time:
You want to turn a working duck when the ducks fly on the corners. For example, the first corner is when the ducks are upwind of you and headed away from the blind. Either give the fast or the slow greeting call to turn the ducks toward the blind then. The second corner to turn the ducks on is when the birds are downwind and 80 to 100 yards from the blind. At that distance, you can call to ducks and turn them. Then they'll set their wings and glide in to your blind. Ducks will break off contact with the decoys and your calling a certain distance from the blind. Identifying that imaginary line and calling to the ducks just before they hit that line results in effective duck calling. Most duck hunters have found the most-productive calling for ducks spans a distance from 60- to 80-yards upwind to no more than 100-yards downwind anytime a duck approaches.
Utilize the Feeding Call When Appropriate:
Hunters like to make the fun-to-blow feeding call that will show off your calling ability. But generally a feeding call will have little effect in pulling ducks into your blind, although most hunters consider the feeding call a good fill-in call. You need to rely more on your greeting calls and your feeding calls less.
Tell the Ducks What to Do:
The art of calling ducks has two philosophies. With the pleading philosophy, the caller begs the ducks to come in to his position. In demanding-type calling, the caller requires the flock to do what he tells it to do. Just as a child responds better to a demanding set of instructions rather than someone pleading with him, so do ducks. Try to sound as if you're telling the flock what you want them to do. Insist they respond immediately. Generally this form of calling produces more ducks within range than the pleading type call does.
Tomorrow: Camouflage and Decoys