Photo by Fred Greenslade/Images on the Wildside
Don't overlook the gray duck. Instead, bag more by adopting a few specialized tactics.
The gadwall has no glam. Its nickname, the gray duck, is the definition of dull. But a close look at the subtly hued drake shows that he's every bit as handsome--in an understated way--as any greenhead or bull pintail. Primarily a plant eater, the gray makes prime table fare, and its numbers are increasing in all four major flyways, especially in the Mississippi and eastern Central. Typically, the gadwall comes when called, but it's no pushover. If like most hunters you're bagging a few incidentally with standard mallard calls and decoys, you can do better.
Talk to anyone who guns grays on a daily basis, particularly in the South, and they will insist that gadwall decoy best to gadwall decoys. Greenhead Gear and Carry-Lite both make very realistic gray duck decoys. Mojo Outdoors has a spinning-wing model. You can simply mix gadwall blocks into your mallard spread, but I think the ducks work a little better to a group of six or eight gadwall blocks set apart from the main spread. When it gets very late in the season, put out more hens to capitalize on the early stages of pair bonding and breeding.
Traditionally, mallard calls have pulled double-duty for bringing gadwall to the gun, as the hen gray does sound very much like Suzie mallard. But there's a difference. When you see gray ducks flying, use a faster cadence on your greeting or come-back calls, and create a dirtier or muddier tone by slightly increasing the hum in your throat as you call.
With practice, you can also imitate the drake gray's odd nasally dink…dink-dink…dink with a single-reed mallard call. But it's easier with a gadwall call, which, owing to the ducks' increasing numbers and popularity, has recently been introduced by call makers such as Phil Robertson and Rod Haydel. A handful of dirty quacks and a few dink-dinks should finish birds right over your offset gadwall blocks for easy shooting.