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How To/Pro-Tips

Muddy Water Ducks

Successful duck shooting is a study in deception. Everything you do to a duck before you pull the trigger is directed at deceiving him. The blind, the camouflage, the decoys, the calls, the whole of both the primary and secondary equipment, tactics and traditions of duck hunting is all about fooling ducks into thinking your location is a safe place to sit down.
If you've ever had the opportunity to fly over a waterfowl concentration, you probably saw that the water was muddy. Ducks muddy the water when they feed by rooting around the bottom.
Flying ducks expect to see muddy water where other ducks (your decoys) are "feeding." Once you've set your decoys, go out at regular intervals and stomp around. Not only does this make your spread look more natural, it also camouflages your decoy anchor lines.
Stirring up the mud works almost as well as a bathroom break when you haven't seen ducks in a while. As soon as you leave the blind, here come the ducks!

Binoculars for the Ducks

As a big-game hunter, I use binoculars a lot. However, I don't leave my binoculars at home when I trade a deer stand for a duck blind.
For the waterfowler, binoculars are invaluable for scouting locations and observing distant duck activity. You can identify the species and often what they are feeding on or why they seem to prefer a certain area from long distance with a good pair of binoculars.
Even in the blind, binoculars are very handy for checking out distant flight lines and seeing what is coming your way from a long way off. They are also good for spotting and marking a long-fall cripple for recovery.
For waterfowling, I prefer the higher magnifications of 8x or 10x with large enough objective lenses to be bright in low light. I also prefer the mid-sized models for a combination of comfortable use and ease of storage. Given the nature of waterfowling, your binoculars must be waterproof and weatherproof.

Clean Up Your Calls

Just as you should clean your shotgun regularly, you should clean your duck calls. The reed must be free to vibrate as the manufacturer intended for the best and most realistic calls. The inside of a duck call is a great place for dirt, debris and pocket lint to accumulate. This foreign material is responsible for the call "sticking" or failing to produce the right sounds at the right moments.
Use a crisp, new dollar bill. Pull the call apart and hold the end-piece with the reed, wedge or cork in your left hand. Slide the bill under the reed (or reeds) and draw it through. This will dislodge any unwanted material and dry the call out. The dollar bill won't tear like paper towels, napkins and tissue paper.
Some recommend dental floss, but that's no fun. As you get better and more fond of your call, you may want to start using $5 or $10 dollar bills. Me? I use nothing but $100 bills.

Decoy Safety

Picking up your decoys can be the most tiring and hazardous part of your duck hunt. We place a lot of decoys by tossing them out. However, to pick them up, you have to go to each and every one, pick it up, wrap the anchor cord and carry it back to a collection point. That's a lot of wading about or maneuvering the boat, leaning over, etc.
Don't get so focused on picking up the decoys or in such a hurry that you fail to be cautious. Watch where you're wading; you may have tossed a decoy over a deep spot.
Use a wading staff, preferably one with a small hook on it to reach out an pick up decoys in difficult places. Use that same staff, or a longer one with a hook, from the boat to avoid having to lean over the gunnel. Some boat hunters cut a small notch in a boat paddle to help them snag decoy lines.

Scouting Out Ducks

Want to be a better duck caller? Find out where the ducks want to be and set up there. If you are located where the ducks want to land, where they feel secure and are accustomed to being, you can look like a real genius with a duck call.

Simple scouting before or during the season will tell you a lot about where the ducks want to be. Watching ducks from a distance as they fly their routes, pick their feeding areas and settle in to roosting spots will clue you in to their daily routine. Scouting farmlands, seeing what is planted and where, is another good idea. If private land is involved, start trying to get hunting permission early.

Having found a good spot, make sure you can find it before daylight. Things look a lot different in the dark. Even if you are only a short distance from a favored duck landing spot, you will be hard pressed to bring them to your decoys.

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