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Waterfowl Hunting 101

All it takes is watching an action-packed hunt on television or hearing a veteran hunter talk about a frosty morning spent in the blind to trigger a genuine interest in duck hunting. The unique sounds of whistling wings, raspy quacks and duck chatter echoing through a thick blanket of fog can really get into a person’s blood. If you’re thinking about giving duck hunting a whirl this season, then you’ll need a crash course in the basics that will help you get off on the right foot.

The following duck hunting guide is designed to give you the foundation and knowledge needed to keep you well inside the red zone. With a little work and patience, you’ll be able to dramatically shorten the learning curve and reach veteran status much faster. On that note, let’s breakdown the basics and get you ready to hit the duck blind with confidence. These simple tips are just about all you’ll need to make it rain some duck feathers this season.    

Tip 1: Do Your Homework
Before you jump into your waders with both feet, it’s not a bad idea to watch and study the tactics of an experienced duck hunter. Spending some time discussing basic hunting strategies like setting up, calling and decoying with a knowledgeable hunter can be very beneficial. With a little persuasion, there is a good chance they might even give you some hands-on training in the blind during an actual hunt.

If pairing up with a seasoned duck hunter is not a possibility, the next best option is to attend a professional seminar or watch a variety of duck hunting DVD’s. Paying close attention to these duck hunting shows can be very informative and educational. After viewing several duck hunting episodes, you’ll need to practice and fine-tune your calling strategies. Instructional DVD’s that cover calling tactics step by step are very helpful. You may also want to listen to actual recordings of duck vocalizations and try to emulate these sounds with your calls.

Tip 2: Get Your Ducks In A Row

With business and almost any type of hunting, your success will often depend on location, location, location. This is definitely true when it comes to duck hunting. The right location is far more important than professional grade calling or fancy decoying setups. In order to pinpoint a target-rich environment, you have to get your ducks in a row with some high-impact scouting strategies.

After choosing a suitable hunting area, search for high vantage points to glass for ducks with a good pair of optics. Make a mental note of prime locations and honey-hole spots that ducks seem to flock to on a regular basis. Once you’ve located the most productive ambush sites, try setting up a game camera directly onto or from the same view point as your duck blind. Units that have a hybrid plot watch or time lapse modes are perfect for this type of scouting. The info gathered from your game cameras will tell you exactly when and where you need to be hunting on a particular day or weather condition.

Tip 3: Conceal & Disappear

The best calling and hottest locations are irrelevant, if you’re setup is sticking out like a sore thumb. Your blind or shooting position should be well hid and completely off of a duck’s sensitive radar. Taking time to meticulously brush in your blind with cut cane, willows, loose sticks, mud and leaves can help you disappear into your surroundings. The ducks need to feel as relaxed and comfortable as possible when approaching your decoy spreads and blind.

In addition, make sure you take the same concealment precautions with your body and gear. Avoid sitting on white coolers and hide anything that may potentially glow or glare from direct sunlight. Cover your face with a hooded mask or dark colored paint and wear a camo pattern that blends in naturally to your hunting location. Your ability to effectively hide and conceal your position can be the difference between ducks floating on the water and stories about the ones that got away.     

Tip 4: Utilize Deadly Decoying Tactics
Without question, adding a life-like spread of decoys can generate a whole new level of realism that ducks won’t be able to pass up. Decoying simply enhances your calling by giving ducks a visual confirmation that what they’ve been hearing down below is perfectly safe and legit.  Properly placed decoys will also attract ducks by sight that may be unable to hear your calling.

The trick is to strategically setup your decoys according to the current wind direction. It’s extremely important to remember that ducks will come in against the wind. The prevailing wind direction should always dictate where you place your decoy spread. Always check the wind prior to your hunt and before you decide how to position your decoys. Proper decoy placement translates to better shooting opportunities.

Tip 5: Shoot Straight & Accurate

Mastering your marksmanship skills is the last tip on the list, but that does not mean it’s the least important. Accurate shooting is essentially what closes the deal! After practicing your calling, scouting, choosing the best setups, and throwing out decoys, the last thing you want to do is choke during the moment of truth. In order to avoid those painful and often humiliating misses, you need to bring your A-game when you’re slinging shot from a duck blind.

The best thing you can do is take some time to become thoroughly familiar with your shotgun. Visit the range and try experimenting with different chokes and loads to see what works best for you and your gun. Skeet shooting is another great way to hone and fine-tune your duck shooting skills. Your practice sessions need to be based on real-life hunting situations, which means you should wear the same clothing and shoot from the positions you’re likely to encounter in the field.

Follow these five tips this season and you’re introduction to duck hunting will be far more enjoyable and successful. Also, be sure to check out and follow all current hunting regulations and requirements. Tickets and hefty fines have a funny way of completely ruining an action-packed day in the duck blind. Good luck and safe hunting!