what do you see?

Jim Ficklin

Genuine Montana Fossil
First year ever I didn't hunt birds, but after location, good cover, knowing HOW to call & doing so when necessary are key factors. A bit of movement, natural-looking spreads (spend some time observing real ducks/geese), and confidence decoys can create that extra "edge." I've also done well from time to time using very small decoy spreads.

Upton O

Blind hog fisherman
D3, Thanks, it is a lot of fun and some days it's great shooting. This year was a down year due to El Nino and a few other problems. Hopefully next year will be closer to "normal". It is one heck of a lot of work, though, during the off season.

I had a little secret place on the dry side that was fun to hunt. We'd take a half dozen decoys into a very small spring creek and set up. It was amazing how many ducks we could pull into it, some pretty nice sized flocks of mallards. The secret was small spread, move off the creek about 25 yards, good camo, and sit still. I haven't been there in seven or eight years since my hunting buddy who found it died. I hope someone else found it and is having fun. I never thought about looking for trout in the darn thing. It had good flow year around so I imagine there were fish in it. If we meet this next year and you have a map I'll show you where it is. I doubt I'll be returning to hunt that area, I hate driving the pass in winter.
I don't hunt ducks and going into the reason is worthless.
What I do notice when seeing duck hunters blinds and spreads is the blinds are to big and the spread is to big and to spread out.
I can spot a duck blind and spread miles away and if I can spot it so can the ducks.
Ducks are dumb, and I hate chuckers.

Upton O

Blind hog fisherman
So, Gary, is it the issue that we duck hunters tend to sit on our butts and try to lure the birds to us rather than hump up and down steep hills, covering miles and miles, watching a dog work and work hoping you'll find just one covey? Man, it's been a long time since I hunted chukars. Brutal sport, chukar hunting. I grew up on those birds in Yakima. The stories that can be told about looking for those ghosts are endless. My body won't handle it any longer. Hat's off to you (or maybe you need a session with a shrink). Great birds, aren't they?

Ducks ARE dumb and chukars aren't.

Jim Ficklin

Genuine Montana Fossil
Likewise re: chukars . . . when the knees started to go, I retired that passion. Great birds, tho (gliding little rascals). I believe I humped harder for chukars than I ever did for elk. Chukar hunting comes in behind goat hunting, however . . .

Dan Cuomo

Active Member
What Guy said; calling and faces.

We've all had the experience of walking out into the spread for some reason, looking back at the blind and telling someone their face was shining like a 1000 watt bulb. If/When the sun can shine into the blind, some way to disguise the face is crucial.

Re: calling, I believe overcalling - and guys doing the highball/comeback call trying to sound like the "pros" do in calling contests - to be one of the most effective conservation measures available to ensure a healthy population of wild ducks. : )

I have been hunting ducks since my now distant early teens, and I have never heard a duck make anything vaguely resembling much of what I hear out there. Inappropriate calling as well as simple over calling. IMO the lazy hen-on-the water is one of the most effective calls for finishing. Not flashy but effective. I don't believe I'm the only guy out there who's had his attention drift away from the sky - to the dog, or a frozen call, or lunch, or coffee, or, or, or... - and looked up to find birds locked up or even sitting in the decoys, without anyone so much as giving them even a feeding chuckle. I've never had the discipline to test the theory, but I've often thought about going out without the calls. So long as there was enough movement in the water to give the dekes some life, I suspect that I might not have too bad a day w/o calling at all. I have had days where I was either surrounded by kazoo players or where I became convinced that the ducks were call-shy, and where I really backed off the calling, and started having more success than when calling as I might normally do.

A bad set-up can and does flare birds, but I've had ducks drop into a spread w/ dead birds in the water, or a sinking decoy or two, or two or three dekes "kissing," that I am not convinced that a bad set-up is as deadly as are shining faces - and hands - and bad calling/over calling.


Active Member
Chukars are some of the greatest birds arent they? I'd have to say that they are my #1 bird in terms of reward and taste. I;m not sure if they actually taste that great or if its just because i know how much work i put into bring down each and every one of them.

back to the ducks... how many of you would honestly go out and start out without calling. I will back off but hardly ever dont call. What works for me, might not work for you, and maybe we are both better off because of it???

Clint F

Fly Fishing Youth
First thing in the morning I like to be set up completly at least 30 min before shooting time if not more. Between the time I set up and shooting time I listen to the amount of birds around me. If there arnt many I will start calling lightly right away. If I hear a lot of birds talking I will not call untill I have shot once. After that I will start calling. I dont usually start calling untill about 8:30-9:00am.

What I am saying is I dont call very much if at all durring the first half hour of shooting time. After that I will call lighty to work birds around me. I would never leave home without my calls.

Great question, I am a little late to this conversation. I'm afraid that at one time or another, I have committed everyone one of the aforementioned sins. Most recently, the thing that's gotten to me are guys that are so insucure about their calling that they open up at the first pass. Since they don't believe they can get them in themselves, by blasting away they seem to want to make sure no one else gets a chance at the birds.

But honestly, put a man out in a frozen marsh with a duck call in his hand and nothing else to do and what do you expect will happen.
I set my dekes, hopefully before sunup, and if everyone around me is calling, I might feed call a very little, but I wait until the ducks are in the area and see what they say.

Like bushwhacker says, put a man in a marsh with a call around his neck, and he's gotta blow it...If I'm jammed with lots of callers, I shut up.

If I'm reasonably alone, yeah, I'll call. Remember, duck hunting is just still fishing for birds.
I will preface this with that I hunt public land almost exclusively on the east side.

It seems that so many hunters rely on huge spreads of dekes and well the birds see lots of birds on the water. I do just the opposite. I weill set-up in smaller water away from the crowd and set out just a few dekes, maybe 6 or 8 mallards and 5 teal hen magnums. If I feel lIKE IT DEPENDING ON THE WALK IN i WILL SET OUT A SINGLE GOOSE. This may come to about 10 dekes.

The rule of thumb I use is the less dekes the less calling. I set up two dekes on a jerk line and my blind is as low as possible.

Watch the first flight of birds and then adjust. Many times I have set up my blind 30 or more yards from the waterand and take the birds on the long swing around the pond. There have been tmes that I actually have set up better than 100 yds. from the water and pass shot birds looking at the dekes but would not commit.

If everybody is doing A then do B!


Alex MacDonald

that's His Lordship, to you.....
After 55 years working the duck marsh, I strongly agree with Guy-fishing for birds is what it is, all right! But the problems I've seen are related to two things: skybusting, and movement/faces. A secondary issue related to movement is the fact that all our blinds where I hunted were rectangular little boxes, brushed on the outside, but from the air, clearly had two guys in them, swiveling to follow the birds.

Upton O

Blind hog fisherman
Alex, we have the same problem with the "box blind" issue. I've tried to explain to others that mother nature doesn't have much in the way of right angles so curved frames or outlines are better. I try to break up the silhouette as much as possible. Lacking that, I rely on being very still and covering the blind opening with as much stuff as possible to reduce "face flash" and hide movement. As for sky busting, there is nothing that gets me more pissed off than sky busting unless it's snagging fish. That goes for pass shooting waterfowl, too. I don't mind an occasional situation with a flock of geese that happens to fly by in range while duck hunting, but pass shooting ducks is just a kind way of saying "Sky busting" done by most people. "Hunting" ducks is getting them to come into the decoys, wings cupped "carrying luggage", within 25 yards.