Hunting Buffleheads

Duck hunting for diver species like Canvasbacks, Redheads, Ringnecks, Eiders, Goldeneye and other diver ducks.

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Hunting Buffleheads

Postby LAT88 » Wed Nov 16, 2016 5:25 pm

Iv been hunting Buffleheads for a few years and have used only drake decoys. Last year I noticed a lot of mature drakes skirted the decoys and kept flying. Iv heard some guys say that buffleheads respond better to spreads with more hens than drakes. what's everyone's opinions on this matter?
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Re: Hunting Buffleheads

Postby riverwatcher » Wed Nov 16, 2016 6:45 pm

Today was opening day in VA. We notice each year that 80-90% of the first buffleheads that arrive are hens, so we use twice or more hens than drakes in our set-up at the beginning of the migration. Today, we used 2 drakes and 5 hens and had a successful hunt. The drakes I bought are oversize and are supposed to be more visible at a distance, but I think that more realistic size drake decoys would work as well and maybe better.
Suggest that you try 70-80% hens in your spread and compare the results.
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Re: Hunting Buffleheads

Postby NHDuck8003 » Thu Nov 17, 2016 3:59 am

I think it depends on what the birds look like where you're hunting. When I used to hunt buffies where almost all of the drakes were in full plumage they seemed to love spreads with lots of white. When I moved and started seeing more dirty drakes, more hens in the spread seemed to help but not sure, I don't hunt them as much anymore.

With that said, buffies are stupid so I really don't think it matters too much. Most of the tactics I use for diver hunting are more to appease myself than the birds.
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Re: Hunting Buffleheads

Postby bigrick_2u » Thu Nov 17, 2016 7:00 am

Buffleheads rarely land, at least for me. They are famous for skirting decoys. Don't take it personally.
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Re: Hunting Buffleheads

Postby BigBlondeBirdDog » Tue Nov 29, 2016 9:04 pm

I had this problem about 2yrs ago ... I took my old beat up ringer deeks, along with my old GHG GE deeks and rattle can spray painted them to look like Buffy hens ... (I call the GE one's I did "Phat Girls") ... and they work great, all you need is a rattle can of flat black, a rattle can of flat white ... couple pairs of rubber gloves and a white sharpie paint pen.

REALLLLLLLLY easy to do, and you can put detail in them or not, they don't care, .... but it gives realizism to your spread !

BTW, ... Doing this brought my ratio of them "BOMBING IN" to "Skirting" wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy up! Try it, you'll be surprised!

Good Luck, .... Hammer'em!
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Re: Hunting Buffleheads

Postby LAT88 » Tue Nov 29, 2016 9:12 pm

I painted a few hens last week, went out, didn't even see a buffie. Theyre not here yet like they will be later.
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Re: Hunting Buffleheads

Postby Rendy » Sat Dec 03, 2016 10:43 pm

the paint sharpie pen trick is actually very simple and effective. i grabbed a few ring neck hen decoys last year and was able to use the white sharpie to do some touch-ups on the white patches hens have. but honestly, its something for me to feel better. where im from we get pushes of lots of hens/immature birds, then more drakes seem to show up later. in our 80-120 decoy spreads we throw 1 or 2 in the pocket, and they bomb it. honestly, if they're close enough to notice the little touch ups to make the hens look more "buffie-ish", then they are too close. any darker coloured hen diver decoy thrown in with a few drake buffies should be all you need.
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Re: Hunting Buffleheads

Postby boatguy » Sun Mar 12, 2017 11:32 pm

BigBlondeBirdDog wrote:I had this problem about 2yrs ago ... I took my old beat up ringer deeks, along with my old GHG GE deeks and rattle can spray painted them to look like Buffy hens ... (I call the GE one's I did "Phat Girls") ... and they work great, all you need is a rattle can of flat black, a rattle can of flat white ... couple pairs of rubber gloves and a white sharpie paint pen.

REALLLLLLLLY easy to do, and you can put detail in them or not, they don't care, .... but it gives realizism to your spread !

BTW, ... Doing this brought my ratio of them "BOMBING IN" to "Skirting" wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy up! Try it, you'll be surprised!

Good Luck, .... Hammer'em!


x2 :thumbsup:

8 out of 10 are hens in my spread,,, made a world of diff. for me this year....
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Re: Hunting Buffleheads

Postby jeffro9023 » Mon Mar 13, 2017 1:49 pm

Having buffleheads in your area dramatically increases your chances of killing them. :thumbsup: ...With that being said buffleheads on Lake Erie here in NY have been all but non existent the past couple years :huh: ...Not sure why, but they always used to kill time on those really slow days waiting for the good ducks.
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Re: Hunting Buffleheads

Postby LAT88 » Mon Mar 13, 2017 4:49 pm

I had anticipated them this year but they never showed up like last year. Putting the hens out worked a lot better than just drakes.
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Re: Hunting Buffleheads

Postby boatguy » Tue Mar 14, 2017 6:04 am

Heck if it wasn't for buffies this year,,,, over here in the panhandle, we would have had nothing to shoot at this year!!!!
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Re: Hunting Buffleheads

Postby LAT88 » Tue Mar 14, 2017 3:18 pm

My best friend hunts over there some and they slayed them. We didn't fair as well on the Atlantic side.
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Re: Hunting Buffleheads

Postby captainduckhead » Sun Apr 16, 2017 8:30 pm

jeffro9023 wrote:Having buffleheads in your area dramatically increases your chances of killing them. :thumbsup: ...With that being said buffleheads on Lake Erie here in NY have been all but non existent the past couple years :huh: ...Not sure why, but they always used to kill time on those really slow days waiting for the good ducks.

Jeffro, those cottontops are small but I think they are decent on the dinner table. Since we can only shoot 2 Broadbills, I usually fill the rest of the limit with them. Try soaking them overnight in tonic water.
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Re: Hunting Buffleheads

Postby goldfish » Sun Apr 16, 2017 9:21 pm

captainduckhead wrote:
jeffro9023 wrote:Having buffleheads in your area dramatically increases your chances of killing them. :thumbsup: ...With that being said buffleheads on Lake Erie here in NY have been all but non existent the past couple years :huh: ...Not sure why, but they always used to kill time on those really slow days waiting for the good ducks.

Jeffro, those cottontops are small but I think they are decent on the dinner table. Since we can only shoot 2 Broadbills, I usually fill the rest of the limit with them. Try soaking them overnight in tonic water.

Widgeons?
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Re: Hunting Buffleheads

Postby captainduckhead » Mon Apr 17, 2017 7:55 am

No Buffleheads, we call them Cottontops or Butter ducks
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Re: Hunting Buffleheads

Postby goldfish » Mon Apr 17, 2017 11:03 am

I feel like you're off on your nicknames, as cotton tops I thought were fairly universally known as Widgeons, and butter balls are kind of split between buffies and ruddies.

They're your nicknames, so I can't really say your wrong or anything, just not quite the norm
Sometimes I think...
'Do I really want a beer?'
Then I remember there's a supervolcano under Yellowstone that is 40,000 years overdue, and when it erupts, it could potentially cover most of North America... and I'm like,
F YEAH I WANT A BEER!
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Re: Hunting Buffleheads

Postby Rick Hall » Mon Apr 17, 2017 1:15 pm

Perhaps regional, as "butterballs" are ringnecks down here. (And "ringnecks" are Canadas.) Buffleheads are apparently too rare to warrant a nickname, though our camp owner's great grandson proudly told me he shot a "buffalo head" last opening day.
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Re: Hunting Buffleheads

Postby captainduckhead » Mon Apr 17, 2017 6:51 pm

I've heard people call them "Buffalo Heads" as well. Never heard Widgeon called Cottontops. Widgeon are Baldies, or Bald Pate, or Robbers. Ringnecks are called Ringbills here.
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Re: Hunting Buffleheads

Postby Rick Hall » Tue Apr 18, 2017 7:03 am

Again apparently regional, as I've seen folks call wigeon "cotton tops" fairly often but don't recall seeing bufflehead called that prior to reading this thread. (Most common wigeon nickname here in Cajun country is "zin zin," pronounced "zan zan," but if bufflehead have a Cajun French name, I've missed it.)
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Re: Hunting Buffleheads

Postby Fsbirdhouse » Sun Apr 23, 2017 11:26 am

I guess we are (My group) extreme snobs here.
Buffleheads, Goldeneye, are called 'trash ducks' in my circle.
Years ago, when I first moved to Idaho, I heard guys talking about hunting 'Divers'.
Immediately visions of Canvasback, Redheads, Greater and Lesser Bluebills (Scaup), and Ringneck ducks flashed to mind.
No, they were talking Goldeneyes for the most part, tho the others are present, and I've killed all the premium birds locally but for the Canvasbacks on different occasions. It came as a shock to me that anybody would seriously target the the 'Fish' ducks. But to each his own I suppose.

The lowly Ruddy duck is a fine bird on the table, but the jaunty little fellows are not a very sporting bird, being able to practically walk right up on one, only to have them dive away, pop up a few yards away, and just generally act rather unconcerned as long as a twenty yard space can be maintained between you and them.
So the words Fall and Autumn are not to be capitalized?
They are in my world.
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Re: Hunting Buffleheads

Postby Rick Hall » Mon Apr 24, 2017 6:54 am

Fsbirdhouse wrote: Buffleheads, Goldeneye, are called 'trash ducks' in my circle.


My hunters have shot exactly one bufflehead in 30+ seasons I've guided in SWLA. It came on a youth day in a mixed group with hooded mergansers, and the shooter (OK, water swatter) told me he "picked out one with a Mohawk," making it that much more surprising. That one went home to show Mom, but I once traded a mallard for a bufflehead shot at one of our other blinds to settle the "good"/"bad" debate for myself. Gave it the same-pan test with a greenwing and expected the worst, given the breast fillets' appreciably darker color. And I could, indeed, taste some difference between the breasts and legs of the two species sauteed medium rare with just a dash of Lawry's seasoning - but certainly not enough that it couldn't have been passed off as teal.

Fsbirdhouse wrote:The lowly Ruddy duck is a fine bird on the table, but the jaunty little fellows are not a very sporting bird, being able to practically walk right up on one, only to have them dive away, pop up a few yards away, and just generally act rather unconcerned as long as a twenty yard space can be maintained between you and them.


The ruddy is another rare duck in my part of the world and often said to be inedible, which I've yet to have the opportunity to speak to from experience. I have, however, had occasion to try to finish a couple crippled ruddies for my hunters some years ago, and found them the World Champs at evasion. Little biscuits would dive and no sooner pop up than dive again and again and again... Worse than whack-a-mole, and I had no success.
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Re: Hunting Buffleheads

Postby Fsbirdhouse » Mon Apr 24, 2017 11:35 am

My only experience with eating Ruddy duck came as a brand new, first year hunter, and my first Ruddy came from Grizzly Island, Calif.
Mom could really cook and turned out a good bird every time. Don't know what their diet was, but I knew one thing about them for sure, they were the hardest bird to pick I ever saw, running neck and neck with the first several Snow geese I had to pick (Mom wanted them as clean as a Safeway Chicken).
I was such a fanatic about goose hunting I suffered thru limits of snow geese, but after the first three Ruddy's, the only other I ever shot zoomed in out of the fog, and I thought it was a Bluebill.
So the words Fall and Autumn are not to be capitalized?
They are in my world.
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Re: Hunting Buffleheads

Postby jeffro9023 » Mon Apr 24, 2017 7:23 pm

captainduckhead wrote:
jeffro9023 wrote:Having buffleheads in your area dramatically increases your chances of killing them. :thumbsup: ...With that being said buffleheads on Lake Erie here in NY have been all but non existent the past couple years :huh: ...Not sure why, but they always used to kill time on those really slow days waiting for the good ducks.

Jeffro, those cottontops are small but I think they are decent on the dinner table. Since we can only shoot 2 Broadbills, I usually fill the rest of the limit with them. Try soaking them overnight in tonic water.


What I meant was, they are so darn small its not really worth shooting for table fare. If Im hungry enough to soak it in tonic water to have to eat it, then im probably hungry enough to eat it as is. Buffleheads have been pretty non existent in my area the last few seasons. Which is fine by me. :thumbsup:
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Re: Hunting Buffleheads

Postby CGD » Tue Apr 25, 2017 5:21 pm

Interesting to hear of different people's success with more or less drake buffleheads, not something I have really even thought about. This year we struggled to shoot bufflehead drakes on a couple occasions but that was mostly because we simply didn't see as many, with the majority of birds we saw being hens. They certainly are fun to decoy though, they hit the end of the long line and boom feet were down in the spread. It made for some fun, fast shooting and when the drakes did show boy they got picked on lol.
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Re: Hunting Buffleheads

Postby scduckhunter101 » Sat May 13, 2017 12:28 pm

I have murdered buffleheads over ring neck decoys. I really don't think it matters to much for them.
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