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  • Keith Bailey

Duck Hunting 101: Essential Tips For Beginners

Hunting ducks isn’t easy, and it requires a lot of specific knowledge. Here are my top 10 beginner tips. They can instantly help you become a more successful waterfowl hunter.



Waterfowl hunting is an exciting sport, but we all know that the season can be quite short. Before you know it, your entire chance to bag any ducks is gone without any success. That’s a bad feeling. You might think you just need to log more hours practicing your aim, but that’s not always the solution.


Hunting waterfowl is a complex game, and the best way to get better is to arm yourself with knowledge. Improving your tactics is just as important as improving your shooting, and often it is a bit easier to do. If you want to step up your game, here are ten tips for hunting waterfowl that you probably never thought of before. They will make a big difference!


Study the Birds


When you go out to hunt, you’re there to hunt. That’s just how it goes. You aren’t there to have a conversation with your friend or to observe the beauty of the clouds. Hunters are all business. And while that can result in some nice days, it ignores a major part of the sport. If you are focusing solely on lining up a shot, you won’t actually learn to understand the animal that you’re hunting.



Next time that you’re out waterfowl hunting, pay very close attention to the birds. Try and learn their behavior patterns. What time do they go to certain spots? How long do they stay there? If you can simply learn about an animal, your odds of successfully hunting go way up. Plus it’s kind of fun to really get into an animal’s mind.


Camouflage Your Boat


Hunters have closets full of different kinds of camouflage clothing to help them blend into their surroundings. Yet many waterfowl specialists still neglect to apply that same principle to their boats! You can be as concealed as possible, but you will still stand out if you do nothing to make your boat more secretive.



It sounds complicated, but it’s actually not all that hard to do. Some waterfowl hunters suggest using natural materials to camouflage your boat. Simply collect vegetation from the surrounding area and tie it to your boat using some cord from a local store. Not only will this be more effective than other modes of camouflage, but you can do it quickly and on the spot.


Be the Last to Leave


This is a great hunting tip in general, but it is especially useful for anyone hunting duck and geese. Birds tend to stop at certain spots almost in the afternoon while they are migrating, but most hunters have left at that point. So what does that mean? It means that you should stay at a given spot longer than usual in order to catch any birds that are showing up late.



When you go to a spot, make a point to be the last person there. Not only will that let you see the birds who arrive later, but it will also allow you to be the sole hunter that can take advantage of it.


Determine the Direction of the Wind


Knowing which way the wind is blowing can be a huge help in deciding where to go to find waterfowl. But it’s not as simple as just licking your finger and sticking it up in the air. Finding the wind’s direction is actually pretty tricky, but there’s a way to make it easy on yourself.



All you need to do is bring along some powder, sand, or other material that will be caught in the wind easily. Fill up a plastic bag or other container with the material, pour it out on the ground, and watch which way it goes when the breeze comes along. It’s simple but incredibly effective.


Practice the Art of Stillness


To animals, movement is everything. If they see even a slight change in their surroundings, they are going to be far more alert and frightened. Because of this, it is super important that you move as little as possible when you are hunting waterfowl. Even if one small movement doesn’t scare off some birds, they will be more likely to fly off the next time that you move because of it. They will also react more quickly to any shots you take.



One good way to become more still is to just practice it whenever possible. Even when you’re just sitting at home, try to put yourself into a hunting mindset and try not to move. It’s not the most fun kind of training, but it can help a lot.


Write Down What Happens


The more you hunt, the more you learn. But as the years go on, it can be easy to forget all that you’ve learned. What’s the point of experience if you can’t recall it? That’s where a journal can come in handy. We suggest that you bring one along with you on every hunting excursion. By the time the day ends, you can just quickly jot down all that you saw, experienced, and learned.



This helps a lot if you can try to record the details that matter most. Things like temperature and wind are smart to record, for instance. It is also a wise idea to write down your thoughts on your equipment. This will be nice when you are deciding what to bring on certain days.


Disguise Your Gun


Hunting in the snow has many benefits. You’ll find migrating groups of birds easily by just wearing all white and staying still. But much like the issue with non-camouflaged boats, snow hunters often overlook their shotguns while preparing their look for the day. But how do you make it so that a gun completely blends in with a snowy background?



Veteran waterfowl hunters have come up with a pretty brilliant way to disguise a shotgun in the snow. They simply wrap it up in medical gauze. It’s easy to put on, it’s easy to take off, and it really does the job. It’s also non-reflective, allowing it to blend in even better. If you’re going to be hunting in the snow, you basically have no excuse not to do this.


Don’t be Afraid of Change


It’s really easy to get stuck in a rut when you’ve been hunting for years. You go to the same spot, wear the same clothes, and use the same tactics. But the only way to make progress is to accept change, and that’s something that we recommend that all waterfowl hunters start doing. Switching up your routine can make a massive difference in terms of hunting success.



Is your buddy going to a new spot that sounds like it might be a dud? Go with him and see what you can learn. Do you see some hunters near you doing odd things with their decoys? Pay attention and try it out for yourself. It’s no big deal if it doesn’t work, but it can change your entire season if it does end up working.


Clean Your Call


A call is one of the most important items in a waterfowler’s arsenal. They get used a lot, and they also get quite dirty over time. Once enough dirt and debris is collected in your call, it will be significantly quieter and less effective. If you actually want to get the most out of your call, it is very important to clean it out regularly.



The easiest way to do this is to simply remove the stopper and place it and the barrel into a bowl of soapy water. This should get most dirt out, and you can use a small brush or a piece of floss to get out anything else that is stuck in there. It’s not glamorous work, but it can be quite helpful.


Learn When to Call


While on the subject of calls, we should also mention that hunters don’t pay nearly enough attention to when they should actually call. They spend a lot of effort learning how to call properly, but they neglect their actual timing. It can be tricky to learn when to do it, but a well-timed call will attract way more ducks than a poorly-timed one.



Most experts agree that it is far more effective to call out to the birds when they are leaving an area rather than when they are arriving at one. Just wait until they turn around and head another way, then let out a few calls. Odds are one will turn around and come back to find where the noise came from.


 

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