I’m back everyone! Sorry, it’s been a while. With getting married, work never giving me a personal life, travel, and a new puppy, it has been tough. I’m back though, and so is football, which means hunting season is upon us. Most of you waterfowlers have already started your teal season, and maybe even your goose season. This one is all about ducks though. Early season ducks to be exact. Large numbers of ducks who have yet to meet a shotgun blast since January means that wing shooting should be good. Follow these tips to increase your odds of bagging out early on opening day.
From opening day until about the second week of the season, hunting over large spreads of decoys has been the go-to for early season ducks. Last season on opening day, after Nebraska and the Dakotas got hit by an early snowstorm, we hunted over about 4-dozen decoys with a number of spinning wing and motion decoys. We shot 26 ducks between five people. Only two of us didn’t bag out.
There are hundreds of ways you can set up your decoys. I like to set my decoys up in a horseshoe formation, with the apex upwind. Ducks land into the wind, so this apex being upwind of the landing zone creates a backstop for the ducks which is more likely to put them into your kill zone.
Ducks flock together with like species. Mallards hang out with mallards, and pintails hang out with pintails. Set your decoys primarily in groups of like species, although you should intermingle some of your decoys. For example, teal will hang around mallard flocks for protection and to find food easier since mallards are vocal about feeding locations. If you are using pintail decoys, I like to set them up on the outside of my spread since they are larger and the white helps grab attention. Make sure you use feeder and loafing decoys inside your spread, too. This will make your landing zone look and feel safe to land in.
Set your spinning wing decoys like they plan to land inside your landing zone, with a couple further outside your landing zone to help grab the attention of traveling birds. Make sure they are facing into the wind for realism. If you don’t have spinning wing decoys I highly recommend getting one or two before your season starts. I use the Mojo Outdoors Green Wing Teal, because of their effectiveness.
Using a jerk rig will help add motion inside of your spread as well. If the wind dies down, pulling a jerk rig with 3-5 decoys on it will help add ripples into the water for motion plus the splashing sound adds realism into a fake flock.
I tend to call more throughout the first two weeks of the season. Primarily because the ducks are more friendly to calls this early in the season,but also because I need the practice. Watch how the birds react to your calls. If one or two groups flare when they hear your calls, lay off. If they are responding then hit the calls all day.
My go to call is a Buck Gardner double reed mallard, and the Buck Gardner 6-in-1 whistle. The 6-in-1 whistle is perfect for teal, pintail, and works great for widgeon.
I don’t use a man-made blind. I prefer to set up where there are a lot of cattails and high standing grass. This works out for me pretty well, if the grass or bushes are high enough. I set up a camo net to help break my silhouette up more. But, I never set up an overhead cover, as hammering pickets is a great way to spook ducks nearby early in the morning. It also looks unnatural, unless you’re leaving your blind out overnight for ducks to get used to.
Hunting without a full blind requires a lot of patience and sitting still. Keep your eyes down, since ducks have amazing eyesight and can see the glare off your cheeks. You can also break up the reflection by using camo paint. (Yeah, camo paint, for all you haters out there on it, its called evolution, bite me.)
Regardless, a new season means new lies to tell, new memories to be made, and the influx of fresh meat in the freezer. Have a good one this year. Want to keep up with how my season goes? Follow me on Instagram and go like us on Facebook. Feel free to share your pictures and stories with us too.