The following is a compilation of information and tips that have been posted by several different people on several different discussion boards. Some can be arguable while others are tried and true. While some of the tips are mine, most I borrowed and assembled into this list. I hope they will be helpful, and if anyone has further information or tips to add, I encourage you to post them.
Scouting is the key, early or late season. Spend time driving around and generally locating flocks, before and during the season. Once you find their general whereabouts, scout for specific areas. While scouting, decide how you will approach the hole.
When duck hunting, it is important to scout your locations. What looks good to you may not look good to the birds. The best caller in the world cannot convince birds to dump into a place they don't want to be. If you have birds pass your decoys repeatedly, move to where they are setting down, it will be well worth the move.
Once ducks devour most of the forage in a field they will move to another one during the next feeding period.
If you see a swirl of ducks that darken the sky and dropping into a hole, try to hunt that hole on that evening or the next morning. Ducks often return to the same hole over and over until the food runs out or until they migrate out of the region.
When hunting on public land, always have at least three different places scouted for hunting. If you show up at your primary hole and it’s already taken, you’ll have an alternate hole to head to instead of wandering aimlessly and guessing on finding a hole in the dark.
Too often we tend to think of public areas such as WMA’s as our first option. While WMA’s can be a good option, don’t overlook the other options. Small ponds, creeks and swamps that hunter’s tend to overlook often contain good numbers of ducks. Think “out of the box” and try to find a place nobody else has discovered. You may find your best honey hole, but don’t tell everyone else about it, or it won’t be a secret honey hole for long!
Don't over look small creeks during icey conditions. It may be the only open water for miles.
Try floating a river or stream in a canoe or duck boat. Early in the season, hunting pressure will quickly scatter local ducks off the fields and open water. Drape a camo cloth or burlap over the bow, stay low, and use a short skulling paddle. As you come around a bend, hug the inside shoreline, and you'll float right up on ducks resting in the slower current.
When scouting, look for an abundance of feathers in the area. If ducks frequent the area there should be noticeable amounts of feathers floating on the surface and brush, and along the edge.
If you see a lot of empty shotgun shells floating, you just found someone’s hole where they did a lot of shooting, probably within the last day or two. On public land, first one there gets it! Pick up or sink your empty shells to avoid leaving clues to others.
Calls and Calling:
Before the start of the season, practice calling while recording on a cassette tape recorder. Your calling will sound different when it's played back and you’ll be able to hear where your calling needs work. You’ll be able to detect and make corrections to the different tones, speed and even hear the difference between your different calls. If you hunt with a regular partner, try recording while you both call together.
When practicing calling ducks and geese at home, try to call lower and slow. This will make it easier to identify your mistakes. If you can call low and slow, calling louder won’t be a problem.
Learn to blow from your throat and not your mouth. Not only will this give you a deeper, more realistic sound, but help you to not spit as much into the call and it won't be prone to stick as badly.
Always carry more than one Mallard call, with each call having a different pitch. Ducks like different pitches and you never know what pitch they’ll best respond to until you experiment with them. All ducks don't sound the same and neither should your duck calls. Vary the type of calls you carry from high to low pitch and raspy to smooth. Then if a particular call isn't working you can throw something different in their direction.
To avoid having your single reed duck call from sticking, apply a thin coating of wax or Rain-X to the reed. Moisture will roll off rather than condensing on the reed. Rain-X can be found at most any discount or automotive store. It’s best to not remove the reed and cork if you’re not able to tune a call. Slide a dollar bill under the reed to clean, and wax under the narrow area underneath the reed. After waxing, wipe it clean, inside and out using a soft cloth. This tip applies no matter whether the call is wooden or acrylic.
On sub-freezing mornings, keep your duck call “inside” your jacket to keep it warm and avoid having the reed freeze up. If the reed freezes, turn the call around and blow hard long breaths through it to warm it up and make it thaw out.
When your wooden call will not come apart, put it aside for a while. Allow the moisture to dry out and the call will then come apart. It may take as few days or even a few weeks.
After getting the duck’s attention, blow your call softly and downward toward the water. The sound will reflect off the water and give a more realistic sound without letting the ducks easily pinpoint “you”.
When working ducks to decoys, don't call while the ducks are coming. Instead let them look at the decoys and call as they pass to bring them back.
You can create a wood duck sound out of a lot of duck calls, particularly single reed calls, with enough back-pressure and some strong blowing.
Late season, use a whistle, goose call, or just quack on the call. Ducks tend to get leery of the hail call and are not quite as used to hearing the other calls.
Three callers can make for some very effective calling. It will sound like a whole flock of ducks. One leads with quacks, while the other two make feed calls.
If someone hands you a gun always check to see if it’s loaded. Treat all weapons as though they are loaded. Keep the action open except when actually hunting or preparing to shoot.
Know what is beyond your target before you shoot.
Be certain of your target before shooting.
Make sure your barrel is clear and free of obstruction. Never fire a firearm with an obstructed barrel.
With most people, one of their eyes is usually superior to the other. The brain automatically "selects" your best eye to dominate your visual field. If your master eye is on the same side that you shoot from, great. You should be able to shoot with both eyes open, which is greatly preferred. However, if your master eye is on the wrong side from your shooting shoulder, you must shoot with that eye closed or switch shooting shoulders to prevent cross-firing. To find out which is your master eye, extend your hands to arms length with the fingers up and palms out. Overlap your thumbs and fingers to create a "knot hole" effect in the web of your hand. Pick out an object and, with both eyes open, focus on it and then center it in the "knot hole" between your hands. Close one eye and then the other. With one eye, it should stay centered; with the other, it will shift or go completely out of view. The eye that keeps it centered is your master eye.
When duck hunting, try using a gun sling on your shotgun. It’s always good to keep both hands available as much as you can. It also gives you an opportunity to rest or warm your hands and arms on occasion.
If you have problems with your sling trying to slide off your shoulder, try sewing a large button on the shoulder of your hunting jacket.
Duck hunters have traditionally opted for full chokes, but the improved patterning of hard non-toxic "steel" (actually soft iron) shot has opened up waterfowl chokes to modified or even improved cylinder for the bigger steel pellets, size BBB and larger. Barrel length has nothing to do with choke performance. Pick the constriction that produces the best pattern for the anticipated range of your shooting.
In a pinch you can use a nickel, or even the rim of a shotgun shell as a choke wrench.
Duck hunting environments are especially tough on guns. You’re hunting in a wet and muddy environment. After hunting be sure to at least wipe your gun thoroughly and give it a good spray coat of oil. Better yet, break the gun down periodically to thoroughly clean and lubricate the inner mechanisms. Most “jams” are attributed to a dirty gun. Never place a damp firearm inside a gun sleeve. A gun that was put away damp will rust overnight.
When hunting in colder weather don't forget to de-grease your moving mechanisms on your shotgun. Clean them real good using Acetone, then either a light coat of Teflon spray or better yet dry powdered graphite.
In cold weather, keep some loads close to body heat. Steel-shot loads have slow-burning powders that will ignite better when kept warm.
Make certain your gun fits properly when you're wearing your heaviest hunting clothes. Too often a gun that fits on a summer evening while you're shopping in a sports shirt turns out to be too long when you're bundled in late-season garb. One trick is having two different recoil pads fitted to the same gun: a full-sized pad for early season and light clothing, and a lesser pad for late season.
Cut a piece of wooden broom handle for a spare gun plug. You never know when you or a friend may need one. A three-inch plug will work fine with most guns.
If you store your guns in a gun safe, or if you leave them in a gun case, try placing silica gel bags with the guns to help deter rusting. When wet, silica gel bags can be dried in an oven on low heat.
Pattern your shotgun before hunting season arrives. Try different chokes and different brands and sizes of shells to find the best pattern. Also use steel shot. Lead shot and steel shot will pattern differently.
Don’t take shots you know you can’t make.
Avoid positioning yourself where you always get the best shot in the group. Try and be fair and spread the wealth, especially with newer hunters.
Shoot skeet during the off-season to become proficient at hitting a moving target. Lead your shot and follow through. Most missed shots hit behind a flying duck.
Never shoot in the direction of, or over the head of a hunting partner.
When hunting with partners, decide in advance who will call “take em”.
When your group is hunting and a group of ducks is committed, make sure everyone understands which ducks are theirs to shoot. E.g. The person on the left shoots the ducks on the left, the person on the right shoots the ducks on the right, and everyone meets in the middle. This method keeps everyone from shooting at the same ducks and allowing other ducks to escape.
If your duck hunting buddy is left-handed, have him sit on the right side. Likewise, the right-handed person should sit on the left. A left-handed shooter can follow through easier on a shot to the right, whereas a right-handed shooter can follow through easier on a shot to the left.
When hunting from a boat, always discuss before you hunt whether anyone stands up to shoot or if they all remain seated. It needs to be either everyone stand up or everyone remain seated, but not mixed. Make sure you and your hunting buddies agree on your zones of fire. This will avoid an accidental shooting of a person and make for a safer and more coordinated hunt.
In cold weather, keep some loads close to your body heat. Steel-shot loads have slow-burning powders that will ignite better when kept warm.
Try building a shell board. Take a 1”x12” or similar board and drill holes slightly larger than the same diameter as your shells. Drill them about 2”-3” apart. You may want to drill the holes at a slight angle. Tack the board in front of where you’ll sit and keep shells ready for fast re-loading.
If loose shells become dirty, muddy or wet, wipe them clean and dry before attempting to load them.
When shooting at decoying ducks, be careful not to shoot over them. When ducks are landing they lose altitude quickly and it is easy to misjudge and shoot over them.
Always keep in mind where the decoys are located and avoid shooting them. It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of shooting decoying ducks and fire into the decoys. Especially be aware of the motorized duck decoy because they are usually mounted above the water and they are more expensive to replace.
Try taking a range finder to your blind, and set a decoy at your farthest effective shooting range. When you have ducks fly by, you automatically can gauge your maximum range.
Check your waders prior to opening morning. Many people arrive at their duck hole and slip their waders on for the first time only to discover they have leaks, or they’ve dry rotted, or in some cases they’ve outgrown the boot size.
An easy way to repair leaks in neoprene waders is to use some stuff called "GOOP". It easily adheres to neoprene, dries in 24 hours, is waterproof, flexible and permanent. If you need to you can spread it on and then place a piece of canvas over the leak and then seal the edges with more "GOOP". You can buy it at almost any hardware store or sporting goods shop.
If your waders spring a leak, you can use a hot glue gun stick and a lighter to make a temporary repair. Use the lighter to heat the glue stick and smear it onto the leak area. This is a temporary quick fix, and will require a permanent repair after you return home.
While pulling on or wearing waders, socks tend to work down and pant legs tend to work up. It’s best to use velcro ankle garters, but in a pinch, try wrapping duct tape around your ankles to avoid sock and pant leg creeping.
When your waders are damp, try inserting newspaper into the waders overnight to help absorb the moisture.
Try using a string of small Christmas lights to dry your waders. This works great. The lights will generate enough heat to dry the insides, but not too hot to crack the waders.
When storing your waders for the season, proper precautions should be taken. Loosely stuff newspaper into them to absorb moisture and odors throughout the storage period. If they are rubber and not made of fabric, wipe them down with a coat of Armorall. If they are made of fabric, you should rinse the outside off with clean water without soap. Store them hanging upside down, and in a dark dry place preferably where the humidity and temperature doesn’t change drastically. An indoor closet is much better in the garage, basement, attic or workshop. The attic is the worst place to store them due to extremely high temperatures. Beware of spiders when you use them after being stored.
Set one group of ducks close to the blind. Ducks can pinpoint where a call is coming from and will get suspicious if they don't see the ducks making the sound.
When setting your decoys out in your hole, put a few at the outskirts of the hole and some in the timber. When ducks lite, they almost always tend to swim toward the timber.
Don’t place decoys or locate your landing zone too close to the water’s edge. Ducks naturally avoid the edge due to the possibility of stalking predators. About twenty-feet minimum is a reasonable distance.
Try to match the numbers of ducks you see with the numbers of decoys you have. Try and set up a few divers on the outer edge and mix in some widgeon (robber ducks) with them. Set your shells up on a sand bar to imitate loafing geese along with some floaters and you will be surprised at their effectiveness.
When ducks become skidish and call shy, usually later in the season, try using less decoys. Adding movement in the decoys can be very helpful.
If ducks are flaring away from your decoy spread, but they seem to be working the hole, try removing a few of decoys. Sometimes less is more.
Late in the season, try setting your decoy spread such that the birds will slowly cross in front of your blind instead of coming directly toward your blind. This will assure that the birds will not be looking directly at you during their final approach.
When setting out a decoy spread, leave an open shooting hole within a good shooting range from the blind. Anticipate where the ducks will come in. Ducks will usually come flying into the wind. When hunting in timber, a good opening in the timber is best, but ducks will surprisingly drop into small openings. Don’t make the ducks have to fly across your decoys.
Sitting ducks that are clustered together in “tight” formations are being cautious of their surroundings. Avoid clustering your decoy spread too tight to avoid making them look frightened or cautious. Use your best quality decoys in and immediately around your shooting hole. Always back away from your decoy spread and look from the direction the ducks will land to be certain everything looks realistic.
Leave an open "landing lane" on the downwind side of the landing zone. If the landing zone is too small or incorrectly situated, many birds will over-shoot the landing zone and land outside the spread and out of range. Remember that landing ducks are respectful of other ducks and prefer to not fly low over resting ducks or land too close to them.
A side wind, either from the left or the right, is ideal. That way most flocks can be kept in sight most of the time as they prepare to come in.
Keep aware of changing wind directions. A jackkite that is loosely mounted on its pole will rotate freely acting as a windsock.
A string or trailer of decoys extending out from your main spread can be a good attention-getter.
Don't rig all your floaters to face the same direction. Real ducks that are doing this are alarmed, and this is not the impression you want to give decoying birds.
Use confidence decoys to add realism to your spread. Sleepers, feeders, different decoy sizes (standards and magnums), decoys with adjustable head positions, different species of ducks, jackkites, motorized wing decoys and even a Great Blue Heron off to the side will give a look of realism to a spread. The diversity is not absolutely necessary, but can be the deciding factor on days when ducks are leery about landing. You may want to place some “walkers” on dry land along the edge. Be sure to segregate the different species. Goose decoys can also be a good addition.
To add a different and realistic look to your decoy spread, try placing a couple of standing (Flambeau Enticer Mallard) ducks on top of a floating log. You may need to wire them in place.
Canada goose decoys set up in the area can be of great help. Put them about 35-50 yards up wind. They add to the visibility and size of your spread. Ducks will often feed in behind geese because of the big birds churning up the bottom. Swan decoys work well also.
Use silos when hunting in snow storms. They don't allow near the accumulation of snow that shells and full bodies do. By doing this you are less likely to be caught among the decoys while dusting off snow.
Flaws in your decoy spread will show up more on a bluebird day.
If ducks are flying but not responding to your decoys, don’t hesitate to walk into the spread and change them up. Often, a slightly different look will make the difference and lure them in.
Never leave the same decoy spread in place day in and day out. Change them frequently to keep from educating the ducks to your presence.
When hunting a field for geese, put a couple of full bodies on the highest point of the field, even if its not near your spread, to catch the eye of passers by.
Never place all of your full body goose decoys facing the same direction (known as "the korean army stance"). Mix them up, 2 sentries for every ten feeders.
Use a jerk cord on a few decoys in the middle of your spread to give them movement. Attach a bungee cord to a stake or heavy weight, tie a cord to the bungee, then attach a few decoys to the jerk cord. As you jerk the string, the bungee cord on the far end will give it a “springing” motion.
One method of rigging a jerk cord is as follows. Find a sturdy plastic bottle with a handle, such as a Purex bottle. Fill the bottle with sand and screw the cap on. Tie your jerk cord to the handle and string to your decoys. Milk jugs will work, but the cap can pop off easily.
While hunting flooded timber on still days stand next to a tree and occasionally kick your foot to make ripples and get the attention of high flying ducks. This will give your decoys movement and give the appearance of feeding ducks in the area. Don’t kick the water when the ducks are committed or too close or they’ll see you. Likewise, when standing in water, avoid moving and making ripples when ducks are committed.
Place your motion duck (i.e. jerk-line, or motorized) somewhat near you. While you're calling, the movement of the motion duck can distract the duck's attention away from you. Also, don't be lazy, if the ducks aren't responding to your decoys, try re-arranging them.
Ducks are extra cautious about movement. When ducks are working or committed, keep as still as possible. If you are caught wading without cover, and ducks are circling, stop and hunker down getting as low as possible, and as still as possible. Ducks will often come on in.
During late season, remove the spinner from the spread early. Ducks wise up to spinners after being fooled a few times.
Try kicking the water to create ripples that simulate duck movement. However, don’t kick the water when ducks are working or are committed.
Tie a piece of foam inside your decoy bag. This will keep it afloat in case it slips out of your grasp while empty. When empty, they sink!
In the wild, all ducks have a muted glistening to them. To replicate this on decoys, use a model car paint kit and a can of sprayable polyurethane. Use the model paint on key areas of the deke, like the green head, white bands, blue pinfeathers, yellow leg or whatever. After the paint dries, spray the whole decoy with polyurethane. The resulting shine will be unbeliveably lifelike. Also the coating will help your decoys survive those long seasons of use by cutting down scuffs, scratches and other damage.
Armorall upholstery spray will also help restore faded paint. Armorall makes the paint appear to re-emerge almost like the decoys are new again, and gives a luster much like a real duck. Using Armorall can buy another year or two before having to re-paint decoys. Ducks are often particular about the looks of decoys. Always keep your decoys clean and in good shape.
When your decoys begin to look dirty, and you want to brighten their original colors, try cleaning them with a low gloss tire cleaner foam. Simply hang your decoys on a fence and spray them thoroughly with tire cleaning foam, and let them dry overnight. The next morning, they will look as good as new.
To help protect the paint on decoys, use Krylon 1311 (Matt Clear Finish). Spray decoys with 2 coats of Matt Clear-Finish, but if your decoys will get a lot of abuse give them up to 4 coats. Then re-spray them each year before the season starts.
A simple method for restoring color and luster to your decoys is to apply a small coat of petroleum jelly. When finished with the application, wipe clean with a soft cloth.
Many people use milk jugs, painted black, to give the appearance of more decoys in their spread.
Old fly fishing line can be a good alternative to decoy cord for tying weights onto decoys.
Take a short piece of Orange Surveyor’s Flaggin and staple or glue it to each side of your decoys. This adds a realistic look of Orange Legs.
If you are using water keel decoys and would prefer to have weighted keels, use a hot glue gun to plug off one end of the keel, then weight the keel with sand and seal up the other end with the glue gun.
When storing your motorized decoy for the year, take it out about mid-year and let it run until the battery is completely drained. Then give it a full charge. This will make the battery have a much longer life.
If you need a bigger water spread and you don't have the floaters, but have some shells, then rig your shells to float with brown pipe insulation. Here is how: Cut the pipe insulation to fit the around the edge (base) of the decoy. Cut one side of the pipe insulation and be careful not to cut all the way through it. Next, drill approx 6-8 holes around the base (approx 1-2 inches from the bottom) of the decoy and make sure you have one in the front center to attach the anchor string. Fit the decoy base down inside the pipe insulation. Attach the insulation with zip (wire) ties run them and make sure they are running through the pipe insulation. Drill a hole in the center of the tail and attach a small amount of lead with a screw to stabilize the decoy and keep it from flipping in the wind.
Last, attach the anchor line to the center front tie.
Lead weights tend to leave lead deposits on the painted surface of decoys. Try dipping lead weights in the type of vinyl plastic that is commonly used on the handles of pliers and other tools. When dipping, the liquid vinyl is messy, so do it outdoors with a drop cloth. Hang the weights and allow them to dry. This also helps reduce your exposure to lead.
After you’ve cleaned your decoys, avoid leaving them in the sunshine. Excessive exposure to the sun will cause the decoys to become brittle and also dull the paint. Hollow decoys will expand and develop cracks or pin holes that will result in leaks.
When storing decoys, try storing them in a basement, shed or other area that is shaded, well ventilated and low heat. Don’t store them where rodents may chew on them. Don’t allow other heavy objects to rest on top of the decoys.
Repairing Holes in Decoys:
One problem with decoys are holes caused by mis-placed shotgun pellets. This often happens due to low flying birds or cripples swimming away through the decoy spread. If the pellets penetrate below the water line, the decoy will sink or partially submerge. If you hunt waterfowl long enough, you will end up with a few decoys that rattle and have water inside them. Sometimes water finds it's way into the decoy and freezes when the decoy is on it's side. Then when the decoy is placed in the marsh, it will list badly to one side or the other.
Finding holes in decoys is a relatively easy task. Simply place the decoy in a tub of water and squeeze it gently. Air will come out the holes, and a stream of bubbles is usually a good indicator of the leak. Remove the decoy from the tub, dry it off, and mark the spot of the leak with a marker.
There are a few options as to how to mend holes:
The first is to heat the end of a small screwdriver and when it is hot, place it on the hole and gently press for a few seconds. This will melt the plastic around the hole and will often seal it. Another is to use a hot glue gun. Either method is usually good with smaller holes.
For bigger holes, another method is to squeeze the decoy slightly to expend some air, and then place a small drop of waterproof glue or seam sealer (caulk) over the hole. Once the material is on the hole, release the tension on the decoy and the movement of air into the body of the decoy will draw some of the material in as well. When it dries, the hole will be sealed. Simply sand off any excess and paint the repair using the proper color.
Finally, another method that is good is the "expandable foam" method. This one is a little more costly, but it is more permanent and will give you a decoy that is probably better than the original you bought. To do it, you need to purchase an aerosol can of spray foam insulation; the type that is used for inserting insulation into the walls of a house with a small tube. They are usually available at home improvement and hardware stores.
Drill two small holes in the decoy, one in the head and one in the bottom. Insert the tube into the bottom of the decoy and fill it until you see foam expand out of the hole in the head. Let the foam harden and then cut or sand away the excess foam and touch up with paint.
In addition to repairing pellet holes, this method is also good for decoys that are made of a stiffer, brittle plastic that easily cracks under stress. It will help stabilize the crack and make the decoy buoyant. In addition, all decoys treated with this method are now "shot proof", as the foam insulating material takes the place of the air inside the decoy.
It is amazing the time and money people spend to blend in, then build blinds that face east so their faces shine when the sun rises. If possible orient your blind such that your face is not exposed to the sun while hunting. You should hunt with the sun to your back. This way you can see better and the ducks can't see you as easily when they fly over your head.
When building a blind, keep it as low to the ground as possible. As the sun rises, the blind will cast a shadow and look un-natural to over-flying ducks. The lower to the ground the less shadow it will project.
If you’re hunting from a blind during or after a snow, take a couple of cans of artificial snow spray. The artificial spray can be used to help conceal anything that is not already snow covered.
Study the allowable bags limits and know the shooting times before you head to the duck hole.
Get a good book, magazine or species chart and study the different duck species. Ducks can be identified by their color, body shape, size, their tail, their bill, the formation they are flying in and several other features. It is a must for a duck hunter to be able to identify the various species, and to be able to separate the drakes from the hens.
Ducks are migratory birds. They migrate from Canada and the northern United States. One factor that moves ducks is weather. Ducks will migrate staying in front of freezing weather. As it snows and freezes, their food gets covered, and water holes freeze and they become inaccessible. Keep an eye on changing weather to the north and try to predict when the weather will freeze and send a new wave of ducks your way.
There seems to be a myth that duck hunting is best on cloudy overcast days. Ducks actually fly better on a sunshine day. A sunny day will force you to hide better but will give you more ducks to work.
When you are hunting over a spread of decoys, there may be a lot of coots around. Don't shoot them unless you like eating them. Let them swim into your spread. This is a confidence builder for other game ducks.
Always let the first bird of the day work until its clear the bird is going to leave or it has landed. The odds are that unless there’s a significant wind or weather change, the next birds will respond in a similar way. If the first bird of the day lands short, open up more space for them and double check the blind and your concealment. You can have the best spot in the world, but if the birds aren't comfortable at landing in your spread, they're not going to land. Also experiment with calling styles early to see what the birds respond to on that particular day.
When working a large group of mallards, there will often be a scout duck trying to land before the larger group commits. If you can keep from tipping your hand to this bird your chances of bringing in the group are greatly improved. Be patient.
When hunting pintails use a strong decoy spread that features a lot of pintail drakes as well as mallards, widgeon, black ducks or any other ducks that are popular in your area. Also try working in your mallard call with your pintail whistle. But most importantly remember to be patient. They like to circle and come in slow. Give them time and don't try to rush them down and you will be successful.
When hunting shallow water, try to “muddy” the water by walking through the decoys periodically. If live ducks were sitting in the hole they would cause the water to appear muddy by their feeding activity. A muddy zone in an area of clear water is easy for ducks flying overhead to spot, and it acts as a natural magnet to pull them down for a meal.
If you have enough property, give your ducks a rest area or sanctuary from hunting. Pick out one or two of you prime feeding or roosting areas and simply don't allow any hunting in those areas. You will be amazed at how many ducks you will draw and hold in these areas and how much it will help the hunting on the rest of your property.
Bring a folding camp seat that has bars along the bottom of the legs. Early in the morning if you are bank hunting you can set the seat up out in the water near a bush or reeds, and it lets you get a few feet closer to your decoys and to the birds coming in.
When wading, use a decoy bag full of decoys to help stabilize your balance. If you suddenly trip over a submerged log, the decoy bag will often give enough support to keep you from falling in. It’s also a good idea to store a complete change of clothes in your vehicle or your pack in the event you do get soaked.
Use a wading stick when wading unfamiliar areas. Several duck hunters have stepped into deep holes and died as a result. With a wading stick you can feel your way before taking the next step.
When wading in water, shuffle your feet slowly rather than taking normal steps. If you’re shuffling your feet slowly, you’ll feel any submerged logs and can step over them rather than trip and fall.
A headlamp is often better than a flashlight when duck hunting. It helps free up a hand for one of the many other tasks you’ll be doing. They’re especially helpful when setting out decoys. Don’t forget to remove the headlamp as shooting light approaches, otherwise it will flare ducks.
If you’re using a flashlight instead of a headlamp, tie a cord or decoy string to the flashlight that will allow you to hang it around your neck when both hands are needed.
Always wear a face mask, headnet or camo face paint. A face mask or headnet is preferable because sometimes face paint glares in direct sunlight. The use of headnets and gloves during early season not only helps with camouflage, they also help in preventing mosquito bites.
Invest in a good pair of neoprene gloves that reach high up your forearm. They are especially good for keeping hands dry and warm while laying out and gathering decoys.
Use a camouflage pattern that blends with the surrounding foliage. A camouflage that works well in one environment may stand out like a sore thumb in another. Ducks have very good eyesight. Cover anything shiny, such as a watch, buttons, snaps and zippers. These small details sometimes demand great attention.
Sunlight reflection off the lenses of glasses will often spook game. To prevent this, try wearing a full-billed hat pulled down low over the eyes. For total concealment be sure to use camouflage on your gun and other hunting equipment. While most can be purchased already covered in patterns, camouflage tape also works well.
Some people like to carry miscellaneous supplies and gear in a backpack. Sometimes it is difficult to find a limb to hang the backpack onto. Carry a wader belt that can be clamped around a tree, then use a caribiner hook to attach the backpack to the belt. This also allows you to keep the backpack nearby and at a convenient adjustable height.
Don’t leave your killed ducks laying in view and especially don’t leave them belly up. Exposed dead ducks will flare away decoying ducks.
When breaking ice, try to push the larger broken pieces of ice underneath the surrounding ice. If you have a bucket available, dip water and toss it onto the surrounding ice. It gives the appearance of a much bigger opening.
Don’t skybust. Skybusters shoot at ducks that are passing by, at or above the treetops. Besides likely crippling or missing the ducks altogether, they may circle and land if given the chance. Also, don’t shoot the first duck that comes in if he is in a group. Let the first ducks commit, and shoot the trailing ducks. When you shoot the first duck, the others will flare away and present a poor shot if any shot at all.
If you see that you're going to be late getting to the hole or blind, be considerate of other hunters and avoid walking through or near their hole, especially when they have ducks working.
Give advance thought to where shot ducks will fall and how you will retrieve them. Some people hunt next to deep water that is too deep to wade. If a duck goes down in deeper water you’ll need a boat, a belly boat or a good retriever. Same consideration goes for cripples. Finish cripples off quickly before they swim to inaccessible water or cover.
When finishing off a cripple, use a lighter load such as 4's or 6's, and at a reasonable distance, otherwise you’ll be looking at a mangled fraction of what was once a duck.
Use the first couple of flights as a template for the rest of the day. If the birds are flaring, you may need to be more concealed or there may be something wrong with the spread. Don't be afraid to experiment.
Carry an empty plastic trash bag. If you drop something such as a flashlight in the water, simply place your arm in the trash bag and reach into the water to retrieve what you dropped, without getting soaked. A trash bag can also serve as an emergency rain poncho or emergency decoy bag when one rips.
Carry one leg from a pair of panty hose. You never know when you are going to shoot that rare duck that you'll take to the taxidermist. By placing the duck head first into the panty hose you keep all the feathers in place. It works really well.
Always have a flag with you. This can be more important than calls.
Geese and ducks tend to play follow the leader when it comes to flying, so if birds are flying over you to an adjacent field or hole, don't be reluctant to move your set up.
Extreme cold weather, 15 degrees or less, tend to make the ducks and geese fly later, say 1-3 pm. Don't give up too soon. By staying later has led to some good shooting when other hunters have left by 9 am. "Can't kill them sitting on the couch. "
When hunters in another nearby blind shoot, their pellets will often rain down on your blind. You’ll hear the pellets as they hit the ground or water. To avoid an eye injury, look downward until the sound of falling pellets stops.
Geese fly sooner on low pressure days, and fly later on high pressure days when it’s cold.
Everyone likes to take their retriever on a hunt. But, if the dog hasn’t been around gunfire and on a hunt, or doesn’t do well with other people or other dogs, leave the dog at home. Take the dog on some solo hunts first which will allow you to see how the dog responds.
Always be aware of where the dog is at. Don’t shoot in the direction of the dog. Be sure to stay in the blind and check with your guide or partner if you plan on retrieving a bird yourself.
When giving a dog hand signals try wearing a white glove or sock on your hand so that he can see the signals clearly. Remember that they are color blind and a camo hand against a wooded background is very difficult for them to see.
Neoprene dog vests are great for warmth, concealment and a little help with buoyancy. But, be alert to your dog’s whereabouts when he is retrieving a duck. Neoprene vests can snag on limbs and brush and cause a dog to drown.
When transporting your dog in the bed of a pickup truck, they tend to slide around uncomfortably. To give your dog a safe and comfortable ride, try cutting a piece of plywood to lay directly onto the pickup bed, and cover with outdoor carpet. You can staple the carpet to the plywood. Another option is to use rubber backed bathroom carpet and simply lay it in the bed. The bathroom carpet works best if the pickup bed is covered since it tends to soak up and hold water. Either method will help stabilize your dog as well as any gear you place in the bed.
If you’ll be in the blind for any length of time, don’t forget to take some dog food or treats. Pack it in a one gallon zip-lock baggie.
Keep a set or two of wings from ducks and zip tie them to your dogs training bumper. Then during the off- season the dog can still get to taste and smell real feathers. By the time hunting season comes around each year he’ll be ready and remember the scent he is looking for when he is on a blind retrieve.
For training, a canvas bumper is better than the rubber ones, because they will hold scent. Save the feathers from the chest of killed ducks and put them in a garbage bag for storage. When ready to train, moisten the canvas dummy and place it in the bag of feathers for a couple of days. You’ll have a fully scented dummy for training. The great part is that you can use the same feathers over and over.
When trimming a dog’s nails, try using a Dremmel Tool. This method was recommended by a veterinarian. Use a course sanding drum to file the nails down. By using this method, you don’t have the underneath nail splintering problems that results from traditional clipping.
Keep a first aid kit that is not only suitable for people, but for the dog too.
Before backing onto a boat launching ramp, have everything loaded onto the boat and ready to go, so as not to hold up anyone else.
Nobody plans on ending up in the water, but it happens. Waves can overtop boats, boats can hit submerged logs, and lots of other things can happen. Always wear your Personal Floatation Device while boating.
Don’t overload your boat!! When you add the weight of people, guns, decoys and other equipment and supplies, the weight adds up fast. Be cautious of overloading.
Ask your local grocery store for an old hand basket. They are easy to paint or camo and useful for carrying ducks in boats. It will keep the birds from freezing to the floor of the boat.
Before traveling to the ramp in the morning, take the gas line that connects between the boat motor and tank, and store it in the floor board of your truck to keep it warm.
When using an outboard motor in freezing weather, keep the lower unit under the water rather than raising it. If the lower unit is raised and exposed to the freezing air, it will cause it to freeze up.
When loading your boat during freezing weather, disconnect the fuel line and allow the motor to run all remaining gas out of the carburetor. If you allow gas to sit in the carburetor it can freeze. This is a good practice in any weather to keep the gas from drying and gumming up the carburetor.
On sub-freezing mornings when your outboard won’t start, check your fuel line filter. Condensation can develop in the filter and freeze, and not allow the motor to start.
If you have an old aluminum boat that leaks badly, try covering the bottom with Rhino Liner. It has its limitations but can be a good sealant.
When hunting big woods, use a GPS to mark your favorite holes. It makes it much simpler to let the GPS guide you to the hole in the darkness.
Prepare and use a checklist. Everyone will have a different checklist unique to themselves. Take time during the off-season to prepare a checklist and use it. A lot of hunts have been ruined by arriving at the hunting hole only to find someone forgot something critical.
Always let somebody know where you plan to hunt and a general time you will be back (parent-spouse-friend) in the event an accident occurs.
Carry an extra change of clothes and a towel. Every duck hunter will trip or slip and get soaking wet at some point. Cold and wet can lead to hypothermia in minutes. If you’re not far from the truck you can leave them there, or bag them twice and carry them in your boat or pack.
Just because your shells, or clothing say waterproof or water resistant doesn’t mean you want to get them wet intentionally!
A good tinder material for starting a fire is lint from your dryer. You can pack a lot of it into an empty film canister.
Carry a cell phone and a first aid kit.