A break in the pattern

Discussion in 'Cast & Blast' started by Upton O, Dec 20, 2010.

  1. Upton O Blind hog fisherman

    Posts: 2,158
    out of state now
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    Lately the duck hunting I've been experiencing has pretty much been a struggle in terms of getting the birds to decoy. There are birds around and they just wouldn't come to the decoys. It has been a really strange, frustrating month for me and all of my hunting buddies with days of hunting and only zero or one bird taken.

    So Friday, a friend called and said he had an Army friend who is heading back to Aftganistan for another combat deployment and the guy is a fanatic waterfowl hunter. His training schedule has been brutal and he hasn't hunted but three times this season. My friend asked if I'd take him on a hunt. I told him it would be an honor and privilege but that there probably wouldn't be much, if any, shooting. I also wasn't sure of the condition of the blinds due to heavy flooding on our property from the Pineapple Express. But if the guy wanted to go out, enjoy the sun, drink coffee and shoot the bull I'd take him.

    So the Army guy calls and we set up a hunt. It turns out he is an Army senior NCO, paratroop guy with 100+ jumps, a bull of a guy and just as nice and polite as can be. Definitely not in the mold of master sergeants I was around in the Army or Air Force. We set up a plan and we met up yesterday. The weather forecast was supposed to give us some rain and a little wind. It ended up being pretty much calm and totally sunny, not the day you typically picture for good duck hunting.

    Maybe God said "I'm going to give the guy a break" or something. Whatever happened, this Army master sergeant combat airborne troop had a chance to showoff his hunting and shooting skills. And he is a really good waterfowl hunter.

    We had a great time, shot ducks, and we got to experience my dog competing with bald eagles for one of our ducks. (I had to intervene and the dog got the duck. No I didn't fire my gun to scare the eagle off, just hustled my fat ass off to get close enough for the bird to hesitate and the dog to grab the duck).

    It's a good thing the blind was facing west or we would have gotten sunburns, seriously.
  2. Gary Thompson dirty dog

    Posts: 3,891
    East Wenatchee, WA
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  3. Roper Idiot Savant

    Posts: 4,285
    Glenraven Ranch
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    Karl, I'm glad to hear you had such a good hunt. That's quite the smile on the Master Sargent's face. What types of ducks did you get?
  4. Scott Salzer previously micro brew

    Posts: 2,878
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    Looks like wigeon and at least on bull sprig to me.

  5. wet line New Member

    Posts: 2,313
    Burien, WA, King.
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    Late season ducks are always a challenge. They have been called at, shot at and harrassed since September if you consider Canada were they are coming from.

    Big spreads or small spread, call or not call.

    Late season ducks have heard every call, good and mostly bad, so many times that they flare from noise. Motion is the ticket! Many hunters put out huge spreads of dekes on big water. Do the opposite. Find smaller water and put out just a few dekes and keep the calling to a minimum if at all. Maybe one good hail call when birds are in reasonable sight range. Eight or ten mallard dekes and maybe a lone goose decoy set off to the side works well. Pull the mallards in close to the bank and trail them out and apply motion with a jerk line. Ripples on the water can be seen for miles. At this time of year most over call and spook ducks. Silence is golden!

  6. Jim Ficklin Genuine Montana Fossil

    Posts: 2,297
    Columbia Basin
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    Well done, Karl.
  7. Jeff Hale B.I.G.F.F.

    Posts: 641
    Bainbridge Island, WA
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    Those are some nice sprigs. Great job.
  8. Upton O Blind hog fisherman

    Posts: 2,158
    out of state now
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    Thanks for the comments.

    Roper, we had nine widgeon (eight drakes) and a bull sprig. I didn't shoot well, one of those days I guess, couldn't keep "the wood on the wood" so I struggled a bit. I actually had to challenge the Msgt to smile, too much serious Army time. We got there eventually.

    Dave, you've obviously hunted the same type of birds we were working. I had an experience about five years ago that gave me a lesson on using a duck call. I was hunting a pool of water and a hen mallard landed out about 100 yards. She got settled in and I just wanted to watch and see if I could learn something about her behavior that might be useful. About 15-20 minutes later a nice flock of mallards started dropping down to her, she gave a "high ball" call and that flock flared like they had been shot at. If the ducks are that call shy to a real duck calling, a human has no chance. Since that time I focus on making the decoy spread more realistic (pattern, number, movement, type, location, etc.). That is the secret to getting birds in. I very rarely call any more.

    This has been the strangest year we've had in terms of bird migration and behavior. Usually at this time we have literally hundreds of pintails and teal working the decoys. Not this year. There are virtually no mallards, I've only shot a half of a dozen of them so far. The widgeon are hit or miss and the teal have disappeared. I've offered to take some guys hunting but can't do it due to the poor response of the birds. After sitting in a blind for two days watching a lot of birds not responding to all of our skills, I'm not going to take guests out. The Msgt was the first guest for me this year and we just got lucky or God smiled on a combat vet. I spoke to a friend who hunted yesterday in the same blind we hunted. He said he saw lots of birds, didn't fire a shot despite having great duck hunting weather (rain, wind). He's a good hunter, too. No, it is a very, very strange year.
  9. wet line New Member

    Posts: 2,313
    Burien, WA, King.
    Ratings: +0 / 0

    Yeah I know the situation! A bunch of stale birds that have been around long enough to get smart. It seems like it happens a lot in mid Dec. The mature drakes are hung up in B.C. and not enough weather to force them down. the early flight of hens and young birds move out with the first hard freeze and the mallards just disappear.

    It takes a lot of cold hard weather for the older Mallard drakes to move south but when they do they arrive in numbers! Some years it can be mid jan. before they show. I recall one year when they didn't show until the next to the last day of the season. And like magic all of a sudden it went from no birds to LOTS of big drakes.

    The next big blast from the arctic should push in some fresh birds.

  10. Jonathan Tachell Active Member

    Posts: 790
    Gig Harbor, Washington
    Ratings: +186 / 0
    Nice report! Glad you guys got into some birds.
  11. Top in my class Member

    Posts: 277
    washington, Spanaway
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    I know what you guys are talking about also.
    Where are you guys hunting at?
    We were out at nisqually 11-28-10 and it was right after all that snow melted, thought we would have a great hunt, but we were wrong shot 5 teal and a hen buffelhead.So far this year ever hunt has had over 10 ducks 2 days with 21 ducks. Were going to go out this thursday I think, so I am hoping we will have a good hunt. I will let you know how we do.

  12. Alex MacDonald Dr. of Doomology

    Posts: 3,320
    Haus Alpenrosa, Lederhosenland
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    This late in the season, they also probably have the blind figured out. Check the condition of the brush around the blind, especially from above the blind if that's at all possible. We always found that guys get up in the corners to shoot a cripple on the water, and mashed down the brush to where the box was outlined clearly! Dave's right on about the changes as well. I found that a half-dozen teal deeks and one other lone, larger decoy were better received. You certainly got a good hunt with the master sargeant, though; nice birds!
  13. Upton O Blind hog fisherman

    Posts: 2,158
    out of state now
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    Thanks for all of the input, our current challenge has been lack of birds. From the data we've gathered, it seems the ducks have moved further north, possibly back to Whatcom County or even B.C. Whatever the cause, we've got no birds, the swans even left which is very, very unusual. I'm giving it a break for a few more days then going back to see what's around. As for the condition of the blinds, your comments are right on. I try to emphasis to the other guys how important it is to protect the covering grass and to not trample the surrounding areas but to little avail. You just can't herd cats...