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 U.S., and now is the time to prepare for upcoming hunts.
1) Plan Your Hunt
This sounds simple, yet so many hunters neglect to plan their hunt.
- Check and monitor the weather forecast so you know which direction the wind will be blowing. This will be critical when selecting a blind and setting your decoy spread.
- 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. However, 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
- Test the loads at 10 yards, to make sure your shot pattern opens fast enough close shots.
- Retest the pattern again at 40 yards to ensure 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 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 to the field only to discover you’ve got damaged decoys, your weights and cords resemble a tangled plate of spaghetti, or 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 make sure it is clean and functional.
5) Eliminate Shine
While you’re maintaining your gear, inspect and remedy any shiny spots on your boat, blind, gun or decoys.
It could be nothing more than a scratch allowing the aluminum hull to peek through, and that’s all it takes for a sharp-eyed duck to decide to land elsewhere.
Carry a can or two of matte black or brown paint to touch up spots in the field.
6) Set Your Decoys Correctly
There is no surefire pattern to use when setting decoys, although some hunters insist on using the tried and true “J” or “U” pattern.
The pattern you use is dictated by the wind and the layout of your hunting area.
7) If it is 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
- Touch up the camouflage on your boat
Waterfowl are sharp-eyed creatures and will abort the landing at the first sign of danger.
8) Choose Someone Experienced to Call the Shots
Nothing irritates a group of hunters faster than someone who calls the shots poorly. It’s sometimes tough 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, although more often than not calling intermittently with more variety works the best.
When in doubt, call a little less.
10) Camouflage, Camouflage, Camouflage
Make sure the camo you wear and use on the blind matches your environment.
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.