There is no surer way to bag more ducks and geese than to get them closer to your gun. Sure, you might reach out and drop the occasional bird at 55 yards, but 25 is a gimme. So how do you persuade waterfowl to close those last 30 yards or 20 wingbeats? Follow the eight tips below to pull them tight. Then the rest is up to you.
1. Get Real
You want the most realistic decoys you can afford, of course, but it goes beyond that. Make sure they’re in good condition and clean. More important, rig them naturally and in numbers consistent with what you’ve seen while scouting. (You are scouting, right?) Too many dekes can be as bad as too few.
2. Open Up
Tight spreads don’t leave birds room to work comfortably, giving them even more reason to land on the edge. You don’t like crowds? Neither do ducks or geese when it comes to air-traffic control. Open up the spread.
3. Clear a Path
Birds like to have an open visual and physical route to their destination. Step back and consider your setup from the bird’s perspective. Is there a barrier, near or far, that could dissuade incomers—a hedgerow in a field or treeline in a marsh. If so, move over and give them a clear path.
4. Find the X
Be where the birds want to be. Not just close, but exactly. To do this, you must scout wisely. Just because you spot geese in a certain part of a field, for example, doesn’t mean that’s the X. Those birds may have moved hundreds of yards before you saw them. Don’t just mark birds; observe and study them.
5. Move It
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 what a jerk cord provides. Don’t let them see you moving in the blind, though.
6. Lose the Spinner
Try a hunt or two without electronics. Birds are drawn to spinners, but they don’t always finish well around them. If you start having techno-withdrawal, put the spinner where you don’t want the ducks to land—like the opposite side of the pond.
7. Learn a Second Language
Quacking is great. It works. But whistles, peeps, trills, and soft growls or purrs can bring ducks in those last few yards. Same goes for the drake mallard’s dweek, and the nasally dink-dink of the drake gadwall. For geese, try a flute call.
8. Exude Confidence
Ducks see all-mallard spreads all day. Show them something different. Pintail and shoveler blocks show up great at a distance. Coot decoys put puddlers at ease. On land, Canadas feel cozy around seagulls, crows, and pigeons. Add any of these to your spread and watch your shooting improve.