My 40 Points to Success--Hopefully some of these are new to you.
1. When you're hunting big crowded water and everyone has massive spreads out, try putting out a dozen or less decoys with no mojo and a simple jerk string. Less is more.
2. Determine who is "calling the shot" before the ducks start flying. You'll thus avoid early shots and even worse, nobody shooting because everyone's waiting on each other.
3. When you have a big group cupped and committed, let the first part of it land in the decoys, then shoot at the back the birds right before they land. After shooting the rear, shoot the those first birds who are going to be slower as they try to take off and get off the water.
4. When hunting with new partners, make sure K9 expectations are gently broached. Nothing sucks worse than having a trained dog hold all day while the new guy's dog is breaking every shot. If your dog breaks, make sure your partners are aware and offer to leash him to a stationary object that is safe and away from firearms. If your dog barks at birds, leave it at home!
5. Mojos are most effective on clear days. For this reason, make sure they are facing directly towards the sun as this generates the most "flash"
6. I always ask how my call sounds. This gives people the opportunity to comment on call strategy, etc. without having to bring it up.
7. When having to finish a duck on the water, first make sure there are no dogs in the water and tell your partners you are going to shoot. Then put your bead just "below" the duck so the pattern will actually swat the duck.
8. Communicate with your partners quietly about groups. My friends and I will often whisper things like "drake is second from left" or "let them circle," etc.
9. We try very hard not to shoot hens. For this reason we will say very loudly "hen" or "hens!" the moment anyone can clearly identify that there are no drakes in the group. This reduces accidents.
10. Always carry extra oil, gas, Rem Oil and an extra plug in your boat at a minimum.
11. When hunting mallards with the sun in your eyes, listen for the "dweeeeb" or look for the tail feather curl to identify drakes even when you can't see color. If we can't tell what it is, we don't shoot!
12. I keep a long paddle in the boat with a notch cut in the plastic paddle. This serves as an emergency paddle and also a decoy hook--run the paddle under the decoy until the notch catches the string.
13. When running your boat in adverse, dangerous conditions, unbuckle your waders so that you can "kick them off" should you capsize.
14. When there are a lot of birds up and circling, we'll let birds land in the decoys. Often this pulls in more birds that are circling and you can always shoot a bird easily after it gets up to leave.
15. Leave your car keys somewhere hidden around your vehicle and tell your partners where they are. This way you'll never lose your keys in the blind and someone else can use your truck in the event of an accident.
16. Call softer than you think. Ever parachute before? It's amazing how well sound travels UP from the ground.
17. Motion in the water trumps everything. Whenever possible, we'll have at least one hunter sitting on the bank in the reads gently kicking the water.
18. Whenever a boat travels by your blind, get ready--they will likely stir up birds that are sitting on the water up or down stream.
19. Always, always wear eye and ear pro. I use simple chainsaw earmuffs that I've spray painted green. I keep them on my head but above my ears when I call. When birds are approaching, I simply pull them down.
20. Whenever you have a large group coming in or even a small group, find the drake from as far out as you can and don't let your eyes leave the bird until after you pull the trigger. This will alleviate flock shooting.
21. When you have bird(s) spotted from a long way out, refrain from moving your gun at all. Wait until the last moment, just as if it crept in suddenly, and shoot it. This will keep your shooting as one fluid motion instead of "over thinking it," which is easy to do.
22. Mark your mojo batteries so you know which is which and whose it whose. I have a rotation i use so I always know which one is which and how they're charged.
24. After a hunt, pick up all your trash, other people's trash and ALL of your shells. Nothing encourages someone else to hunt your spot like seeing a ton of spent shells, signalling a hot spot.
25. Don't pile your birds. Instead, lay them out in a line so they're easy to count. When getting near to limiting, make sure everyone knows how many are left and decide who's shooting in the event of a big group with only a few ducks left to kill.
26. ALWAYS bring a camera. We see so much cool stuff that most people will never see out there!
27. I use a sling on my gun. When the hunt is over, I unload the gun, open the action and put it on my back for the ride or hike out. This helps air dry the gun while cases are an easy way for rust to form. I carry Rem Oil in my blind bag for extra wet days.
28. We always start out NOT calling. If birds aren't sucking in to mojos or water motion by themselves, then we'll start calling. If they do, why call?
29. "Call at the corners."
30. For me, the feeding call is the most deadly "tractor beam." I can feeder call pretty loud and I'll lower the volume as birds get closer. Nothing says good news like "we've got food here."
31. Make every effort you can to retrieve every bird you shoot, no matter how far they sail. Last year I sent a sailor damned near a quarter mile down river and onto the bank. I got my gun and dog, uncovered the boat, started a cold motor, drove over and spent 10 minutes searching with the dog. He finally pulled the bird out from under the bank (head dunk)...and it was banded.
32. When running your boat in the dark of morning, stay far off the bank. No need to fuggy up other people's spreads or possibly put a swimming dog in danger.
31. Evening hunts become extremely productive later in the season as ducks have to feed multiple times a day. Use smaller spreads and less mojos as they can likely see better. Make sure you are very well concealed.
32. Bring an extra pair of gloves and a down coat in your bag. The combo can turn a miserable hunt into a fun one for you or your partner.
33. Wrap your decoys so that you're using as little cord as necessary to reach the bottom. Hitch them this way and you'll have a lot less tangled decoys. I also keep about 20% of mine with extra long lines and write a big "L" on the bottom so I know which ones I can use in deep water.
34. Bring food or treats for your dog. They burn a TON of calories out there and this will help keep them warm.
35. Whenever you retrieve a duck, run your hand all the way up their leg--bands can be up under their leg feathers.
36. Don't be afraid to mix it up! If the birds aren't committing, pull mojos, move decoys, even move locations.
37. If you have to hunt with the wind in your face, pull your decoys close the bank so the birds have a chance to get close without the benefit of a headwind to stop them.
38. Cover your face, dummy! Ever seen someone in a blind from the river? Their face is like a huge moon pie. Use a face mask or face paint to break up the pie.
39. Sunglasses shine like crazy. Use black face paint like baseball players instead.
40. HAVE FUN and be a good representative of our sport. We are all responsible for its future, so don't hesitate to call out the bad guys and encourage the good guys.