The main reason duck hunters come home empty handed is location or lack thereof. If you are not where the birds want to be in the first place, you have one hand tied behind your back from the get/go.
Falling not far behind in the hierarchy of would of, could of and should of can be found at the end of the lanyard hanging from many Waterfowler's necks. Take heart and be of good cheer. This is nothing to beat yourself up about. After all no where is the art of the gimmick and marketing so focused and so enticing than with duck calls. You have your open water call. You have your timber call. You have your marsh call. You have your competition call. You have spit-proof calls. You have calls in the color of your favorite college football team. You have calls in every color combination known to mankind. You even have calls designated for newborns these days.
Couple the well done advertising campaign with any of several available duck hunting videos or television episodes dealing with duck hunting and before a person knows it, they can be caught up in a calling frenzy. After all, look at how they do it on tape. A few skilled callers are wailing to beat sixty to the top of their lungs and ducks are just falling from the sky.
Take a deep breath, hit the rewind button and take another long look at this picture. For starters, it is hard to compare your hunt to an outing on private land that might not have been hunted for several days before filming or a shoot on public land where "blockers" have a perimeter set up to hold off the masses before and during the shoot.
Next, look closer at the birds in the air versus what actually ends up on the duck strap. How many times do we see copious amounts of waterfowl overhead only to witness precious few landing in the decoys before the cameras pan to the anxious shooters?
Notice I mentioned ducks on the stool----birds on the water. If pass shooting is what you are after, stop reading now. I am wasting your time. If you love to gun on the rise, please hang on.
Stop and consider the total picture. Most of us are average callers and shooters. We do not have access to pristine digs nor are we world championship callers. We must factor in that the world has changed. The prior availability of easy credit has seen to it that every kid of driving age and his twice removed third cousin had access to a $15,000 duck rig and a $50,000 four wheel drive pick up. The fast and loose finances before 2009 made it easy to tote a $1,500.00 shotgun and blow a $150.00 duck call. Technological advances have empowered anyone who can charge a battery to have a life like decoy spread via the spinning wing decoy. Simply put, puddle ducks now have PhD's in survival.
There is a reason you see all those whistling wings in the sky but a fraction of that number on in the drink when the moment of truth presents itself with much of the footage out there these days. There is a reason that ducks take a close gander at your blocks but don't commit even when you are well hidden and you know you are set up where they are dying to be. Often that reason is dangling from your neck. More times than not, if that call was kept where it belongs, in the pocket, you would be seeing more feathers floating on your T.V. or at least some plumage drifting on the water in front of your set up.
I did not start seriously calling until 15 years ago at age 33. I was privileged to hunt with some magnificent duck callers in the flooded timber of Arkansas. Some of these individuals have called for U.S. Senators and guided in $800.00 a day lodges. Their skills, to put it mildly,are incredible. That said, these hunters to a man have one thing in common: they call sparingly using very simple routines. Sure, these sportsmen can do anything on a duck caller that can be done and do it well every time but they understand we are now hunting in a new era. Less is more.
I challenge you never to make a hunt without a shirt that has a front pocket if not two. That pocket will give you the tools to put more birds on the grill or in the gumbo if you keep your call where it needs to be most of the time. I challenge you this season to know a few calls but know them well. Forget about trying to impress Mr. Jones and key in on Mr. Green. In fact, I have learned you can convince Puddlers to deploy their parachutes with nothing more than a three to four note greeting call----no hails, no rolling feed call, no quacks. I challenge you to resist the urge to continue the time-honored ritual of wailing on a confounded duck call right at legal shooting hours. See what happens first before you put that caller to your mouth. You will be surprised to know that ducks will land in the decoys at the start of the day with no calling whatsoever.
Ducks don't say much these days. Spend a few hunts sans the shotgun. Go out, get hidden and chunk out a decoy or three then just observe. Countless times I have studied birds swimming in close proximity to me that would not utter a word in their language for two to three hours. The undisciplined caller does nothing more than give interested parties a reason not to drop in. Don't take my words for it. Put what I am telling you to the test this season. Save all that money you spend on calls and videos for a rainy day. It will come in handy in these times. At the very least, use it to buy something nice for that significant other that puts up with the crazy lifestyle of a Waterfowler. Anyone who endures 2:30 A.M. alarms, muddy dogs and one thousand yard stares at Dinner time all season deserves it. Good hunting!