Hunt ducks, they say. It’ll be easy, they say. Well, I’m sure duck hunting is easy after you’ve learned the many aspects of the sport. But if you plan on “winging it” don’t be disappointed when the ducks magically vanish from your pond. The amount of detail ducks can see from their birds eye view is astounding, leaving no room for mistakes on your part. To avoid basic blunders, here are a few things a beginner should know about duck hunting:
Ducks have evolved from the days of our grandfathers, where hunters could throw out a white sheet on a piece of foam and the ducks would just flock in. Today’s duck requires a higher level of trickery to lure them into your sights. According to Reed Foster of Cut’em Down Outfitters, ducks can see every detail on a decoy. So keeping your decoys fresh and mud-free an important way to ensure that ducks don’t get spooked by something not looking “quite right” from the sky.
James Tarwick of Atonement Entertainment reckons plastic ducks are best, “because nobody can afford the wood ones, plus you can’t throw six dozen wood decoys.” If expensive wooden decoys are within your budget, by all means go for it. [Avian X dekes are legit.]
Once you’ve selected your decoys you need to place them in the perfect spot. Their position tells the ducks in the sky details about the [faux] behavior below. For example, ducks tend to huddle together later in season when the temperature drops. If a duck flying over head feels the need to cuddle, a pond with tightly gathered decoys will appeal. That said, there’s no proven placement method and dozens of potential positions. So watch real ducks and imitate their positioning as much as possible. The key: make the water scene look as normal as possible.
I’ve written about whether to camo or not to camo. In this case, there’s no question. Wear camouflage. Cover any visible part of your body with camo. If you see a duck “flare” — change direction when it spots something dangerous — it might be time to check your camo.
I don’t recommend a pump action shotgun for duck hunting. You have too many things to think about besides racking your gun. When I made the mistake of using a pump, I had a difficult time leading the birds and pumping the fore-end — especially because it was so cold.
Don’t get me wrong. Pump action shotguns can be loads of fun (so to speak) and they’re justifiably famed for their reliability and affordability. But it’s so much easier just to pull the trigger on a semi-automatic shotgun and get on to your second shot. Ultimately, take the shotgun with which you are most comfortable. But why add complexity?
A duck’s reconnaissance relies on both visual and auditory cues. Calling the birds is both an art form and a necessity. It’s not that difficult to mess up a duck call; you need read the situation to determine what level of calling required. There are plenty of beginning duck call videos on YouTube as well as CDs (remember them?) you can play in your car on your way to work. Practice! Just for fun, check out the Stuttgart Duck Calling Hall of Fame.