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How To/Pro-Tips

Be a Duck Locator

The easiest way to successfully call ducks and geese is to set up where they want to land. This requires scouting. Spending lots of time watching birds with binoculars pays dividends when you go to shoot.
In every marsh or swamp there are favored "duck holes." Some remain the same all season long and sometimes year after year. Others may change as the season progresses. For consistent success you should know which is which and where they are. Having several promising areas is good insurance.
Field feeding geese can be troublesome because they follow the abundance of fresh food. Snow geese are particularly bad about changing feeding locations on short notice. When you find a favored feeding spot, get on it quickly, while it is still hot.
I have several portable blinds that I use to keep up with current waterfowl usage patterns and to avoid over-shooting a good spot. Even a perennial hot spot can be cooled off by constant shooting.

Paying Your Dues

Ducks Unlimited has been a vital part of one of the greatest wildlife management success stories in modern history. DU was organized in 1937 when a series of drought years (the same ones that brought us the Dust Bowl) had decimated prairie breeding grounds and our national waterfowl population had plummeted.

Since then, DU has been a large and constant force for waterfowl conservation in both words and action. They have demanded good wildlife management on the part of public agencies that control wildlife on both public and private land. At the same time, DU has raised much money that they have directly plowed into both research and on-the-ground management to conserve wetlands that are home to many species of wildlife, including waterfowl.
I am proud to donate a part of the revenues from the sale of camouflage products to such a worthy conservation organization. I urge anyone who is serious about waterfowling and/or wetlands conservation to join Ducks Unlimited. Learn more at www.ducks.org.

Reading the Rut

As with the pre-rut, watch the progression of the rut itself to make the right moves. Conventional wisdom says that bucks are all chasing does and all bets are off. Well, a buck that has just successfully bred a doe or lost her to a more dominant buck will often return to his old haunts and freshen up his scrapes.

This is more often the case in areas where the rut is a long, drawn-out affair. When previously neglected scrapes suddenly look fresh again, you are in the neighborhood with a lonely buck.

All during the rut, watch where does travel and concentrate. Bucks are looking for does and tend to hang out, usually in heavy cover, near areas of high doe use.

When a buck is actually on a hot doe's trail, he will follow her and very well may be caught on main trails, away from heavy cover and in unfamiliar territories. Keep your eyes open during the rut because a buck may turn up anywhere.

Timing the Thermals

It's not just wind that can betray the hunter's scent to deer. Normal air currents called thermals can also do you in. These are caused by the air warming and cooling during the day. It's a simple fact of basic physics; warm air rises and cool air falls. If one of these thermals carries your scent to a wary buck, he'll be gone.
Thermals are particularly pronounced in mountainous country. Typically, as the day warms up, the thermals rise. In the evening, the cooling air "falls" into the valleys. It is usually recommended that you place your stand site higher on the mountain or ridgeline for morning hunting and at lower elevations in the evenings.
Another quirk of mountain air currents is that the steep topography often causes the wind to swirl. Even if the prevailing wind is from one direction, the air around you may be going in another. Keep your eye on wind direction and thermals when hunting in the mountains.

Reflections on Rattling

The tactic of clashing deer antlers together to lure in a competitive buck has enjoyed mixed success across the country. Rattling started in Texas and was soon tried in other areas.

Different areas showed different degrees of effectiveness. The key words are "competitive buck." In well-managed areas with a low doe-to-buck ratio, the bucks must truly compete for the available does and both rattling and other forms of deer calling are more effective. In areas where there are too many does there is usually a strung-out rut and both rattling and calling are less effective because the bucks are less competitive. Basically, with plenty of does to go around, the bucks don't have to be so aggressive.

Timing also has an influence. The most competitive periods associated with the rut are the immediate pre- and post-rut periods. Both rattling and calling work best at this time. However, even at the peak of rut, a buck without a doe can be vulnerable to rattling and calling.

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