There’s much to be decided before the November 3 (for most of the state) start of waterfowl season, and much work to be done. Blinds, decoys, calls, boats, dogs-all must be in top form by opening morning. It’s no easy task, but nothing worthwhile ever is. In that spirit, here are a few suggestions, or more likely reminders, to help with all the planning and preparations. I’m sure you have some preseason rituals of your own to add to this list as well.
I was mentored in duck hunting from some older “well-seasoned” duck guys who had logged many waterfowl seasons in the blind. Duck hunting was a part of their life, but as a young man not educated in their ways, I definitely needed their guidance.
Here are some of the time-honored tips and traditions that these gentlemen handed down to me. I hope they serve you well.
1. Make a Plan for the Season – We have a plan for many of the significant events of our lives. We plan a career, plan our family’s financial stability, and ultimately plan the disposition of our wealth and possessions after we have hopefully moved on to an eternity of autumn winds and cupped wings. Successful duck hunting-certainly a key component of life-also requires a plan. A good one, thoughtfully devised.
Last season is the best starting point for planning the current one. If you keep a waterfowling journal, review last duck season objectively. Try to determine which hunting spots produced, and under what weather conditions. Which spot is best on a storm front, and, conversely, where should you be when the weather is clear and calm? Which option is best when it rains, snows, or freezes?
If you have only one hunting spot, know the conditions under which it is most productive, and resolve to be there on those days. The goal of your preseason planning should be to maximize hunting opportunities as weather and water conditions change.
Sometimes the best scouting at an area wetland or lake is when the water levels are low. Contours, vegetation, obstructions are all visible when the water recedes.
2. Dust Off Your Duck Call – New or inexperienced hunters can be intimidated when attempting to call in ducks. It is hard to believe that everyone felt that way at some point. The best way to improve is to practice. With today’s tutorials on YouTube or other social media sites, it is easier than ever to teach yourself how to blow a duck or goose call.
Even if you are a seasoned hunter, practice is important to stay sharp. To pick up just where you left off last winter, you’ll need some practice prior to opening day.
As a starting point, clean your calls and inspect the reed. If you hunt three or four days a week, consider starting each season with a fresh reed or reed set. Expensive calls should be sent back to the call maker for new reeds. Otherwise, try installing and tuning the new reeds yourself If you intend to buy a new duck call from one of the major mail-order catalogs, place your order as early as possible; a backorder notice holds little value on opening morning.
With your old or new call now tuned to perfection, practice as often as you can prior to duck season. A good approach is to find a place outdoors where you can practice calling at normal volume levels and then tape yourself, comparing your calling to recordings of live ducks.
When you practice, do so with purpose. Don’t just call randomly. Instead, make your practice sessions as realistic as possible by calling as if you are working a flock of ducks. Imagine the birds turning to your highballs, locking up on your greeting calls and feeding chatter, veering off but turning back to a comeback series. Practice with a purpose, and you’ll be more effective on opening day.