Frank Lopez wrote:Rick Hall wrote: But I'm not too full of what I think I know to try to learn the answers to such riddles.
That's debateable, as you seem narrow minded about this and bent on one train of thought. There's a whole bunch of hard science that points in another direction. Science that is founded in eliminating variables that might cloud the outcome.
I somehow missed that gem last evening. And while I've posted a link to a University of Michigan study speaking to the birds' preference for good decoys, I think it fair to share the "Science that is founded in eliminating variables that might cloud the outcome." behind my "narrow minded...train of thought".
Never mind how long I might claim to have duck hunted (by some on these boards' reckoning my 13yr-old grandson has 9 years "experience") or, perhaps, even that I've been charged with filling pay hunter straps virtually every open season day since 1984. I know plenty of old waterfowlers, some of whom have guided much longer than I, who've failed to turn experience into much knowledge. Experience is wasted on those who don't pay attention, experiment accordingly and continue to grow from those practices.
In our part of the country, specklebelly geese present what I believe the toughest litmus test for decoys. No, they're not ducks, but they are equipped with similar vision limitations and advantages. And much of my current decoying beliefs with regard to most waterfowl comes from what the specks have taught us.
Having been an Ohio Valley Canada hunter who'd enjoyed great success over a mix of shell decoy makes and homemade silhouettes, I was surprised to discover a great many Louisiana specks turned up their noses at such mixes. And, through experimentation, I learned that any mix of differing speck shell makes was apt to be less successful than just using even the worst looking of those alone. My conclusion being that a mix gave birds that were looking for trouble opportunities for troubling comparison.
When Big Foot made their first run of specklebelly decoys, several years before they became a permanent offering, I thought they'd blow the socks off the G&H standard speck shells that had been our decoy gold standard and ponied up the then princely sum of $36 each for a spread of them that proved disappointing, no matter how badly I wanted that serious investment to pay off. Specks simply wouldn't finish as well to the BFs as they did to standard G&H shells, something also independently confirmed by a professional carver friend with a permit to keep live specks who'd repainted BFs to match them as well as humanly possible and the widely considered specklebelly guru who bought up most of the early BF specks to be found in our area. I couldn't help but conclude, after giving them much more chance to pay off than a less stubborn soul might, that the BF's greater size made it easier for wary specks to conclude they were trouble.
When better and smaller fullbodies became available, experimentation made it clear that the early Hardcore FBs more readily finished specks than than much easier to transport G&H shells. And when Dave Smith Decoys introduced what most today consider the gold standard of fullbodies, experimentation with both they and '04/05 Hardcores in the same field but widely separated showed the specks favored the Hardcores, likely because the HCs of that period included several more body postures than DSDs, or perhaps because the HCs were a bit closer to the specks' true color, or both. (The bummer being that those HCs didn't hold paint worth a flip.) Along similar lines, the "speck guru" friend mentioned above experimented for a couple seasons with a large five dozen DSD and five dozen fully flocked GHG fullbody spread, before concluding he could finish far more birds by ditching the GHGs. Whether because of the differences between those makes and/or simply fewer chances to spot the manikin being something we still enjoy knocking around.
The speck's susceptibility to calling and scrutiny of decoys has led many of us to frequently hunt over very small spreads or none at, particularly in the late season. If ground conditions are such that it's difficult for specks to see that there are not birds down there, they'll often come low trying to find the source of a well concealed hunter's circumspect calling when they'd likely have circled high studying his decoys in the same location. While decoyless hunting is not an uncommon ploy among veteran speck hunters, I know just one guide bold enough to take advantage of that phenomenon when hunting paying guns who don't know and trust him. And I'm not that guide.
When I'm guiding for late season birds and not needing decoys to bolster our concealment, I stick with small spreads, even when we might well be ahead with none. But I try to "hide" those decoys on rough ground or near small weed clumps or such to make them difficult for the birds to see well. And the most challenging late season speck hunts are over open water where the decoys stand out plain as day. In that situation it's quite common to see specks bump hard off even a single decoy, sometimes crossing the guns in doing so.
All of which being a long-winded way of saying I believe it behooves me to play to the most worried birds out there and not settle for what's good enough for others. And I try to do so by experimenting and paying attention.