33 Duck Hunting Tips & Tricks For Beginners & Seasoned Waterfowl Hunters.
What’s the one thing that compels a person to try waterfowl hunting?
The vile hours for duck hunters typically stretch from even before dawn to until sunset. More often than not the climatic conditional are bone-chilling and frosty. One small mistake is often translated into a bewildering bath. The mud is all over your body and your dog will love to shake-off on you.
Hmm, this certainly depicts a miserable picture, right?
Well, the picture is rather spectacular on the flip side and I certainly wonder how can a person not get captivated and moved by waterfowl hunting. To be able to watch the stunning and serene sunrise is something to die for. The scenery, the spellbinding wilderness, the sense of freedom and the space to feel the solitude; it’s a feeling that you can’t experience anywhere else. Besides, an early morning an exciting hunting session with friends or family is certainly a quality time.
So, if you ask me why I choose duck hunting? I think more than anything it gives me an opportunity to reconnect with myself and nature. It’s intriguing, it’s intricate, it’s fun, it’s comfortable and more than anything else it’s connecting.
Well, if you haven’t experienced it yet, I will definitely recommend you to try it once (because after that I am sure you won’t need any convincing to go again and again). And to help you make the most out of your first waterfowl hunting experience, I have come up with just about everything you need to know about this sport. So, continue to read-on till you feel packing up for your first duck hunting experience.
And for you convenience we have divided this post in 3 sections i.e.
Duck hunting tips for beginners.
Before we go deeper to covered many technicalities involved in waterfowl hunting sport. There might be various questions from beginners’ perspective (many of these questions were a nightmare for me back when I planned my first duck hunt), including; where to start from? Where to go for duck hunting? Where to find the best decoy? And many more.
Well, I can’t answer all of your questions and queries here; however, I do try to come up with answers to some of the most pressing and commonly prevailing queries.
Be Passive - First get the game before getting into the game.
Many people recommend gun as the first investment. However, by experience, I know for sure that the best knowledge about duck hunt sport is gathered by observing game veterans doing it the right way and thereby, the best way to begin your waterfowl hunting career is to leave the gun in the trunk as just observe the experts shooting birdies out of the sky.
Get A good Camouflage.
The first gear that you should invest in is the camouflage.
Now, when it comes to choosing the right camouflage, you’ll need to consider the environment you’ll be hunting in. For instance, for a grassy area, selecting a greenish/grassy camouflage will be ideal, whereas, for flooded timber or woodlands, you’ll need a brownish/bark like camouflage to be concealed.
Remember, we are talking about waterfowl hunting, which means you can’t remain dry during the sport and thereby need to invest in waders for insulation purpose. Choose a breathable wader so you can layer the clothes under it.
Find an experienced partner
As I have already mentioned above, to be able to master the sport truly, you’ll need to observe experts doing it. So, while you are planning your first duck hunt season, make sure you find an experienced hunter (there must be someone in family or friends you can team-up with) who knows the rules of the games and has a hunting license.
Find the Birdies,
Even with the best equipment and killer shots, you can’t make the kills when there are no birdies around. Thereby, scouting is an integral part of waterfowl hunting. You need to find the place where birds like to lounge in. Take your experienced partner along to scout the area and look out for roost (that’s the place where ducks sleep at night).
Seek Permission before camping
Duck hunting without permission of landowners isn’t just bad manners, but it is also a serious offense with potential criminal proceedings. Thereby, once you have spotted an ideal location to camp, make sure you look out for the landowners and ask for their permission. If the site is public property, you can also lease or buy the area.
Get your shotgun.
Once you are done with all the prerequisite checks, it’s time to invest in the weapon. A 12-gauge shotgun is by far the most widely used and potent weapon for a duck hunt. However, I know hunters who like to go with a 20-gauge weapon. However, as a beginner, you don’t need to go for the larger gun. Personally, I will recommend going with a semi-automatic shotgun, for its far easier to handle and make the kill as a beginner.
Choosing a Decoy
By now, you must have been aware of the significance of decoys. So, I think it’s time we see how you can select the best decoys. Now first things first, never, I repeat never go for the priciest decoys with a guarantee of getting more kills. Believe it or not but I know hunters that have made countless kills with nothing but painted jugs. Since this will be your first waterfowl hunt game, theirs is no need to go with pricey full body ducks that cost over $100 for half a dozen. Believe me, there are companies like RedHead who offer a dozen duck decoys in less than $50.
One aspect that does matter here is the decoy movement. If you got the money, invest in decoys with motion, because a dozen or more afloat ducks don’t really sit idly and your best bet is to imitate as precisely as possible just ensure birdies that the water is safe to lounge in. Robo Duck is one such movable electronic decoys that are able to create currents and move wings consistently.
Master your Call
Duck calling is an amazing experience that will help you connect more deeply with the sport. However, to be able to truly master your call, you’ll need much efforts and practice. You need to know how loud or soft you need to make your call, when to give your call or when to not give out calls. One great way to understand the art of duck calling is by watching online tutorials, easily accessible on YouTube.
Duck hunt shooting tips.
Now that we are done with decoy tips, it’s time to look at some sharp shooting practices. To be honest, shooting is where the fun begins in waterfowl hunting. Ok, let me just say that shooting is the epitome of the duck hunting sport and everything else that leads up to this including decoys, blinds, scouting, etc. are supplementary. Believe me, there are few other accomplishments that will give you a stronger sense of joy and pride as a clean kill.
But, how exactly you can make that clean kill? What’s the secret of scoring high in waterfowl hunting? How can you actually transform the misses into hits? What do you need to increase your accurate shooting skills?
No one is a born master, we all need to practice any skill to master it. As far as shooting is concerned, its mastery comes with three fundamental traits, confidence, concentration and coordination. You might think shooting is all about mechanical precision, however, in fact, it’s more about instinctive than mechanical. It’s one of the skills that you’ll master with coaching and generous practice.
Ok, enough talking. Let’s just jump over to some best duck hunting shooting tips. Follow this effective duck hunting shooting tips and you’ll definitely pull more kills.
Choose a shotgun that fits your body
Before you even think of shooting birdies, you need to make a smart choice for your gun. A shotgun should seamlessly follow your body physique. Ideally, you should take your weapon to a gunsmith and have him make the stock adjustments, so it suits your frame naturally.
I know many duck hunters who never practice shooting waterfowl hunting season and then actually have the audacity to complain about their misses. Remember, hunting needs practice and rhythm and you need to sync your body and mind with the weapon before you can actually make the kill.
Preseason shooting practice can easily sync your mind, body with the weapon. I prefer to practice preseason shooting at the dove fields, as it ideally replicates the waterfowl hunting conditions including the angles and distances to shoot. A week or so preseason shooting practice in dove fields is often enough for me to get back my rhythm and get a feel of shooting.
Take your aim, don’t be in a hurry
When I took my kid for waterfowl shooting for the first time, I immediately feel his sense of urgency or anxiety to shoot. He seemed to be too fretful about ducks getting out of range of his gun that he shoot at will without thinking much about aim.
Taking aim is important and to be precise, you will have enough time to take at least three well-aimed shots before the birdie goes out of the range. Thereby, it is only rational to slow down, take your time to aim at the duck. Suppress the jerk during shotgun mounting and never rush on to shots. This will take time to get used to, but believe me once you are able to control your excitement and anxiety, the kills will follow.
Take out one birdie at a time
Getting along the previous point, another common mistake most novice duck hunters make is to shoot at the flight without taking aim at one duck. You know a flight of ducks coming in your decoy is more than 90% air. Yes, without aiming you’ll most probably be hitting the air in between the flight. Thereby, it is useless to shot the flight of ducks without specifying a target. Calm your nerves and suppress your anxiety, is the order of the duck shooting.
Hunting tip for the late season
Opening up a waterhole in frozen marshes or lakes is one seriously effective tip to shoot some birdies in late season. If the ice isn’t too thick to cut clean slices, use a net to pick up shattered ice from the surface of the hole, which doesn’t look natural.
Staying late does pay off
To take advantage of strong tailwinds, waterfowls to tend to migrate behind cold fronts. Thereby, staying late in the morning is a good idea to shoot migrating birdies looking to take some rest.
Patience has its rewards
Waterfowl hunting is a patience sport and there is no way you can rush into kills. Try to be patient and wait for the right opportunity to fire. Shooting randomly without aiming or without taking into view the group patterns of birdies will only result in more misses and more desperation.
Shoot the trailing birdie
Well, this is more logical than intuitive. When a duck flight is landing most of the hunters will aim at the lowest and closest birdies, which mean there is a greater chance of two or more hunters aiming for the same bird. Personally, I prefer shooting the highest birdie in the flight for the first shot, this not only leave my shotgun in the ideal trajectory to aim other flaring ducks for the two more shots, but gives me a sense of pride to be able to aim for a birdie, which no other hunter was daring to blow out.
Keep up with the follow through
What happens when you don’t follow-through the club after hitting the golf ball? Same is the case with the shooting. Don’t pull out of the swing after shooting, rather keep the barrel moving on its natural trajectory and you’ll be amazed at the results for sure.
Go to a shooting school
Ok, perhaps this is the best duck hunt shooting tip I can offer. There are many shooting schools with specialized courses for waterfowl hunting practice. The certified shotgun instructors in shooting academies will certainly help you analyze, sort and correct problems.
Duck hunt blind tips.
You know back in the days when I first started waterfowl hunting, we were short on blinds. No, it wasn’t like there were no blinds available in the market, rather we at that point in time didn’t have enough money to afford one. Unfortunately, back in days, pit blinds were also illegal, which bare us to use them. Nonetheless, we were able to come up with some indigenous ideas and used whatever we can to build a blind and honestly speaking, I am really proud of what we achieved with limited resources, back in those days.
Fortunately, things have gotten much better today for all of us. The prices of blinds have lowered significantly, as well as there are various brands and varieties of duck hunt blind available in the market. So, I thought why not just list down some helpful tips that can help you with building a potentially invisible duck hunt blinds.
Duck hunt blind Building is a serious effort – don’t take it for granted
Over the years I have met with numerous waterfowl hunters who don’t really think much about building a blind. For them, it’s just a hiding place which can be made in any formation. This is one seriously flawed approach. Building a waterfowl hunting blind is much of an art, where you need to conceal and camouflage the place within the natural landscape if you are to succeed in duck hunting sport.
Check on the state regulations
Before you build a blind over any spot, make sure you know the local and state regulations. Also see is the land you are thinking to build upon is privately owned, if so, make sure you ask for landowners’ permission. Another important aspect is to keep a check on concealment of the blind preseason and take all your necessary gears, equipment and supplied with you at once.
Match Your Terrain
The key to the best duck hunting blind is to match the natural terrain. Use natural camouflage to conceal your blind and keep it as close to nature as possible.
Ask fellow hunters for Critiques
One thing that will help you go a long way in every aspect of life is the ability to take criticism positively. Even after years of experience in waterfowl hunting, I like to have the fellow hunters comment and give feedback to my settings. A good practice to follow is to invite fellow hunters in the area and ask them if they are able to spot the blind. This way you will have an unbiased and honest opinion about your setting, and make any necessary adjustments before the 11th hour.
Digging out a pit
Use of fiberglass puts in digs is quickly becoming popular among various waterfowl hunters. It enables them to absolutely match the terrain and remain covered up in natural habitat. Although this involves quite a bit of effort to build, however, if made correctly, you’ll be proud of yourself.
Less is more
Duck hunt blinds are meant to hide and not as a show-off, which means you don’t really have to make it stand-out among others. Don’t try to overwork the blind, rather keep it as natural as possible. Any blind is perfect as long as it remains concealed for birdies.
Keep a backup blind
Ok, so you have built the perfect blind and spread the decoys across the water. But what if the birdies out of the pressure of hunting or for any other reason decide not to land in your designated landing zone? Believe me, this happens more often than you might anticipate and expert waterfowl hunters make the necessary arrangements to deal with the situation. A good idea is to locate an out-of-the-way location first hand and build a backup blind in that zone. This will help you not remain deserted at times when birdies decide to fool you around.
Duck hunting decoy tips.
Duck hunting decoy is an important trait that you’ll need to master. If you aren’t well-versed with the term, then it refers to the procedure where you’ll be spreading the decoy to fool birds into your firing range.
One common mistake which even the experienced hunters fall into (including me) is to reuse the same spread week after week. Believe me, I am living witness to the intelligence of these birds and that if you don’t try different decoys, you’ll be deserted without any birds. The key to attract those shy-birds is to use different spreads (diversity is the key here).
Change has to be the only consistent element for any successful waterfowl hunter. Get along with different decoy spreads, go on with decoys from different brands, and use different bird species. Below are some of the most successful decoy spreads I have come up with in all my years of waterfowl hunting. These spreads will definitely help you attract the shyest bird out in the sky.
Personally, I feel most excited about hunting in small meandering rivers as they offer some of the best duck hunting actions. Often times these small rivers have islands, which are ideally suited to set-up hunting base. The presence of shallow water along the island means there’s plenty of space for birds to comfortably lounger in. Spread your decoy around the island with open landing zone in the middle of the spread and just wait for the birdie to lounge right in front of your shooting range.
Reservoirs are also a great water body to go waterfowl hunting. However, not all reservoir areas attract ducks and you’ll need to locate spots where the birdies are landing. Once you have your area located, spread the décor in layers pattern with an empty landing zone in between the layers (right in front of your blind). Here you can use goose decoys on land (at the back of your bling) just to reassure birdies that the place is safe to lounge.
This is perhaps one of the best spreads for duck hunting. I personally like to use this decoy spread at times when other spreads aren’t working. Fish hook spread is easy to deploy and can be made along long lines.
Double O Decoy
Ok, double O might look a bit freaking too many waterfowl hunters especially the newcomers, however, it does yield amazing results. You surely need to try it out once and I am sure you’ll be surprised to see a large number of duck lounging in between the two O’s.
The “U” Decoy
The U shaped decoy is also known as Horseshoe, which isn’t much surprising given its appearance that closely resembles a horseshoe. For when the wind is swaying on an hourly basis, U shape can be your go-to spread to attract birdies into the hole.
The “L” Decoy
The L spread push birdies to lounge in a particular spot near your blind. The L shaped decoys grow in width from the lower end of the longer leg and are widest towards the blind. It’s a visual trap for the birdies showcasing newly landed birdies at the tip, which are swimming along the river towards the flock close to the designated landing zone.
This is necessarily a tactical spread that simply directs the birdies to lounge in the designated landing zone (which is directly in front of the bling zone). Shallow water spread is made as the runway lights for the airplane coming right towards the blind zone.
Flooded fields are favorite lounging places for ducks, irrespective of the size or depth of the water body. Though hunting in flooded water bodies isn’t the easiest of the task to achieve, you can use this spread decoys across the waterbody banks with a landing zone in the middle of the body.
Sloughs that have been well-used are hard to find; however, if you do find one, it’s basically a waterfowl lottery ticket for you. You’ll probably need to do some hard legwork to find one, however, the efforts will pay-off. To increase your shoots in active sloughs, just spread the decoys in close formation (it’s much similar to fish hook spread) with an open center spot (in front of blind) as the landing zone for birds.
Well, there are various other decoy formations that I use, however, these are some of the easiest spreads that will yield best results for new waterfowl hunters. Just remember, change is the key when it comes to the decoy spread. You’ll need to experiment with different formations over the weeks and I am sure you’ll be able to create some interesting spreads of your own.
So, here you are everything you need to know to undertake your first waterfowl hunt.
One thing that I do stress to every duck hunters is to ensure they stay clean legally.
Make sure you know the local regulations and are not violating any local or state rules.
Lastly, the best tip I can offer is to find an experienced partner for your first hunting expedition, someone who understand the rules of the game and who knows how to make the most of this amazing experience.
I’m looking forward to your comments…