Mossy Oak ProStaff
Waterfowl Regional Manager (Atlantic Flyway)
Question: What do you look for when scouting for places to hunt ducks and geese?
Answer: It depends on if I am hunting public or on private land. Typically if you are hunting public land, your area of scouting is a lot larger. When I am on public land I will look for areas where birds are grouping up to rest. Typically in public land scenarios the birds are pressured a lot. So if you can find the spot that they feel comfortable relaxing, then that is where I would try to set up. Private land is a lot different because you are restricted to the area of land that you are leasing or have permission to hunt. However, this makes your scouting much easier because you do not have to cover as much ground to find that special spot. Hopefully, the area you are on has birds using it. If so, just keep an eye on them for 2 or 3 days before you decide to hunt that spot. You should start to quickly see when and where they are feeding or resting on your land.
Question: How do you decide on your decoy placement for ducks?
Answer: I have tried all different set ups for ducks in a lot of different scenarios, and I do things differently depending on if I am hunting ducks alone or ducks and geese together. All waterfowl like to land into the wind. When hunting ducks only, I will always set up with the wind at my back. This will help get the birds to land into your face and shooting zone and not behind you. You can try any variety of the “U,” “J” hook, or “C” pattern shapes. I have not found one to be better than the other in my opinion. Any pattern that allows the birds to land into the wind and gives them an open spot to aim for is worth trying. When I am targeting both ducks and geese at the same time, typically my goose decoys out number my duck decoys drastically. I will usually set up my goose decoys first and then, on the inside of my target area for the geese, I will place the duck decoys on the edge of the geese closest to where I am located. This will help draw the ducks within range, but not push the geese out of the hole.
Question: Do you use different decoy patterns when setting up? Do you change the spread during the hunt?
Answer: My decoy patterns depend solely on the wind. I set up depending on the wind direction and speed. A very light wind allows you to be a little bit more lenient with your pattern direction, whereas a fast strong wind you have to follow it exactly if you want good shots. I will absolutely change my spread throughout the hunt. A lot of people do not like to get out of their blinds to make a change to the spread due to the lost time and the possibility of losing birds that may come to work the spread while you are in it. But, if you are seeing a negative trend from the birds you need to do something, or you will probably watch them repeat that trend all day long. What I mean is, if you watch a few flocks work your spread really well, giving you 2 or 3 circles and each time they are looking more and more like they are ready for that final decent. If all of a sudden the lead bird flares and they slide on off the horizon, then something isn’t right. It could be a number of different things that are causing this but one thing is certain, unless you change something you will have that same issue again. Get out and move the decoys around. Re-check the wind to see if it has changed. If the birds are working behind you and you are forced to make uncomfortable shots change the spread so that you are looking at the zone where they are trying to land. Losing 15-20 minutes of the hunt making a change is going to be much more rewarding than sitting there and dealing with a small issue all day.
Question: Do you use layout blinds when field hunting for ducks & geese? If so, where do you place them in your decoy spread?
Answer: I do use layout blinds in some situations for both ducks and geese. Typically I will place my blinds right in the middle of my spread facing the landing zone with the wind at my back. I try to thicken up the decoys in that area to help hide my blind.
Question: How do you conceal your blind and hunting area?
Pit blinds – Rake up existing vegetation and tie or fasten it to the top of your pit. You may have to do this a few times throughout the season.
Above ground – Most above ground blinds are either in standing corn or hedge rows. For corn fields use some of the left over stalks to help hide the blind. If it is a hedge row, you can use any type of tree or bush.
Boat – If you have a blind on your boat, anchor your boat up against an existing land structure and use as much of the natural vegetation around you to help hide the boat. If you are exiting the boat and hunting from the land, make sure you have a couple of large brown or camo burlap fabric pieces and drape it over the boat.
Layout – First thing you should do to every layout blind is put mud all over it. Let the mud dry and then knock it off. This will take the shine off of the fabric on the blind. Then, attach whatever you are hiding into the loops that should be connecting to your blind.
Your dog – The best way is to purchase a dog blind and then follow the process for the layout blind.
Question: What are your basic calling tips for ducks?
Answer: Most people make the mistake of calling at ducks too much. In most cases, I think less is more with ducks. Give them just enough pecking and clucking and a few quacks are typically all it takes especially in high pressured areas.
Question: What are your basic calling tips for geese?
Answer: With geese I am much more vocal on the call. But I am always watching how the birds are reacting to the call. Some days it seems as if they don’t want to hear anything at all and others you need to be giving them something until their feet are about to touch the ground. Watch the lead goose in the flock and see how that bird is reacting to your sounds. If they are continuing to come to a certain note, stick with that sound. If you do something different and one of the geese in the middle or towards the back starts to break off, continue with that sound. Sometimes you may be able to pull just a few instead of the whole group.
Question: How can I be a more consistent shooter on ducks & geese?
Answer: Practice is really the only answer to this question. No gun, shell, or choke tube is going to fix problems that practice can’t. Shooting clay targets do not always replicate the shooting scenarios that waterfowlers encounter, but you can get used to wing shooting by practicing this way.
Question: Do you use different chokes in your shotgun depending on the type of hunting?
Answer: I do. I have about 4 different choke tubes that I use in different situations. In reality they are not that different from each other but if I know I am going to be focusing on a specific size of bird, I will most certainly change my tube accordingly.
Question: How can I attract waterfowl to private property?
Answer: The two most important things for any good waterfowl property are food and water. If you can build a pond or flood a field, you are setting yourself up nicely to have birds using your land all day long. As far as food goes, there are several options you can plant from Mossy Oak BioLogic that are geared towards ducks and geese. But most fields have been planted with crops that have since been harvested and those fields will almost always attract hungry ducks and geese.
Question: How do you introduce youth to waterfowl hunting?
Answer: One of the best ways to getting a kid involved in hunting waterfowl is to actually let him contribute to the hunt. Let him go retrieve the birds if you are in a field, or let him send the dog. A great way to really let a youngster think he/she is really helping out is to give him a duck whistle. These whistles are very inexpensive, and can be bought anywhere hunting equipment is sold. You can reproduce the sounds of about 6 different ducks on this whistle and it will hardly ever spook a duck.