Waterfowl Tips
  • Get In The Timber

    Jake - December 2, 2010

    The green timber shooting of eastern Arkansas and other areas in the southern Mississippi Drainage area are justly famous. It is productive and it is fun. However, it is almost as much fun to watch waterfowlers from other areas try it for the first time.

    This type of hunting requires a good bit of loud calling and relatively few decoys. In fact, many experienced hunters use none at all or at most two or three. Good thing too, because timber shooting often requires a long trek in to a good spot.

    The ducks drop in through holes in the tree canopy, often without warning to waiting hunters. The ducks are just suddenly there among the shooters. It is fast, in-your-face action and when the shooting starts the ducks are no slouches at dodging through the trees.

    Ranges are usually short and I prefer rather light shot. Don't handicap yourself with too much choke. A wide pattern yields better results on these quick and fast-moving targets.

  • Fuel the Furnace

    Jake - December 2, 2010

    All my duck hunting companions know of my fondness for snacks. Some have suggested that I publish the "Buck Gardner Pretzel Diet Plan." The only problem is that you don't lose weight on it. But you do stay warm because food is the body's fuel.

    Foods rich in carbohydrates are efficiently digested by the body and keep the internal furnace well stoked in cold weather. Proteins and fats demand immediate digestion but it is a slow process and they don't deliver immediate fuel for warmth and energy. Sugars give a quick energy boost, but it is quickly gone.

    My "duck day diet" starts with a high-carbo breakfast of pancakes, cereal, fruit, etc. I take a generous supply high-carbohydrate and a few high-sugar snacks to the blind with me. For dinner, meat and potatoes - hopefully a good steak - provides the fat and protein at a time when the slow digestion of these more complex nutrients do not hamper my internal heating system.

    Besides, I like pretzels!—Buck Gardner

  • Decoy Spreads

    Jake - December 2, 2010

    Many decoy spread patterns are written about, but I'm not sure ducks can read. The particular decoy pattern doesn't matter nearly so much as understanding the overall dynamics of a decoy spread.

    First, the decoy spread should contain an opening for incoming birds to land in and that opening should be well within your shooting range. Next, the decoys and the opening should be properly placed in relationship to your blind. Ducks circle with the wind and land into it.

    Since the opening is your killing zone, it should be placed on the downwind side of the blind. A useful variation is to place the opening in the decoy spread so that the wind is blowing across the front of the blind. This can help keep the birds from circling directly overhead.

    I like to pull all or most of my decoys and rearrange them frequently. If possible I hunt alternate blinds. When ducks get shot at regularly from the same location, they get really wary.

  • Duck Calling Basics

    Jake - December 2, 2010

    There are a lot of theories about duck calling and I'm not sure that any one of them works 100 percent of the time. Sometimes ducks seem to want a lot of calling with long and nearly continuous highballs. "Put them on a string and don't give them time to think," as the old Reelfoot-style callers used to say.

    At other times and places, too much calling seems to put ducks off. Maybe not flaring them but keeping them endlessly circling when they should be landing. Heavy hunting (and calling) pressure often results in call-shy birds but sometimes I think it's a matter of their mood or some other factor that we don't understand.

    I favor the style of calling that puts ducks in the bag. I don't hesitate to change my style - more or less, loud or soft - when whatever I am presently doing isn't doing the job. Sometimes a simple change-up from the locally popular calling style tells the birds something that they haven't already heard.

  • Realistic Decoy Setups

    Jake - December 2, 2010

    Everything about your waterfowl blind should be as realistic as possible. Today this is much easier than ever before. Remember the hours of building and camouflaging a blind from scratch?

    Today, many companies make "pre-fab" blinds out of camouflage material that are easy to transport and quick to set up. They vary in their features and degree of complexity, but all get you into a basic blind quickly and easily. These are easily spruced up by adding a bit of native vegetation to merely break up their outline. This is far easier than having to cut enough grass or brush to completely camouflage your blind site.

    Another realistic touch is to periodically stir up the mud among your decoys. Feeding ducks stir up mud and this reassures incoming birds. It also helps camouflage your decoy lines.

    Keeping a clean blind helps too. Every so often pick up spent shells, candy wrappers and other unnatural debris that may accumulate around your blind and warn wary birds.

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