Seal the Deal: 10 Ways to Bring Ducks and Geese Closer
By M.D. Johnson
Photos By: Edward Stahowia
When it comes to ducks and geese, 25 yards is better than 55. Sure, you might kill ’em at 165 feet; then again, you may not. Twenty-five yards is just better odds. But how do you convince greenheads, honkers and the rest of the avian brotherhood to commit to that last 30 steps? These 10 tips can definitely help you pull ’em closer. The rest, then, is up to you.
Hide yourself better
If you’re not hiding, you’re not shooting. Seven times out of 10, birds that don’t finish see something they don’t like. A dog, a profile, a big black hole or an unnatural shape. Your face, hands, eyeglasses. Step back. Take a critical look at your hide, then adjust — add stubble, remove brush, move it if possible.
Set realistic decoys using appropriate numbers in natural arrangements
The title says it all. Good-looking, clean decoys rigged naturally and in numbers consistent with the numbers seen during scouting — you’re scouting, right? — put birds more at ease. These are the ones likely to fully commit.
Open up the spread
Ducks and geese both here. Squeaky-tight spreads don’t leave birds room to work comfortably, giving them even more reason to land on the edge. Don’t like crowds? Neither do most ’fowl when it comes to air traffic control. Open it up.
Understand waterfowl avionics
Make sure the birds can physically accomplish what you want them to do. Is there a barrier, near or far, that acts as a fence or wall to incomers? Stand back and look at it from their perspective; and again, if necessary, open it up. Provide a clear path.
Be where the birds want to be
Not close, but exactly where the ducks and geese want to be. Dry fields or flooded, it doesn’t matter. Be where the birds want to be, and you’ve overcome 95 percent of the challenge.
Scout the right way
To be where the birds want to be, scout wisely. Understand that visible birds might not have started in that location, but may have moved hundreds of yards from the “X” you seek. Don’t just watch; observe and study. It takes time.
Employ natural (but unseen) movement
For duck hunters gunning calm water, nothing beats a jerk cord. Nothing. There’s a reason why ducks show up when you’re in the spread — ripples — and that’s where a jerk cord can’t be beat. Don’t let ’em see you moving in the blind, though.
Lose the spinner
Try a hunt or two without the electronics. Or, if you’re unable to comply without suffering techno-withdrawal, put the spinner where you don’t want the ducks to land (i.e., the opposite side of the pond).
Learn a second language
Quacking is great, but don’t overlook the other duck sounds. Whistles, peeps, trills and soft growls or purrs are all natural; so, too, is the drake mallard’s dweek, and the nasally dink-dink of the drake gadwall. All are easily reproduced with Slayer’s Whistler’s Mother 4-in-1 whistle.
Use coots, non-mallards and confidence decoys
Ducks see all-mallard spreads from day one. Mix it up. All dabblers key on coots. Pintails and shovelers show up well at a distance. Plastic herons, cranes and egrets spell security. On dry land, Canadas feel cozy around seagulls, crows and pigeons.