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About Time To Chase Those Ducks

With duck season just a few days off, it’s not too late to make a few last-minute updates, changes or scouting trips.

The first thing everybody needs to do is get on the New York State DEC website and make sure of season dates, bag limits, species allowed and gender. Also, make sure you have a current waterfowl stamp and HIPP number.

It is the most anticipated day of the year for a lot of duck hunters throughout the region. The opener can be overshadowed with crowded boat ramps, low duck harvests and people who have no hunting ethics or respect. These issues, among many others, will play out just about every where one hunts. But it’s our responsibility to do our best to make sure we are not part of the problem and more of the solution.

There are a few things one can do to put things in your favor for the early part of season.

Scouting cannot be overstated in a hunting pursuit but never is it more important than with duck hunting. I would dare say this one thing is the most important aspect of a successful early season waterfowl hunt. Be willing to walk further and go places that are hard to reach to ensure you beat the crowds. Most of the easy-to-reach spots will be packed and look like a matchbox with hunters’ elbow-to-elbow.

Our area offers great access to lake hunting, but always know and understand the local laws. Just because a friend of a friend owns a piece of property on the lake, doesn’t mean that one can just go set up on the shoreline and start blasting away. Different villages and towns around each body of water have their own set of laws regarding firearms and hunting. Again, know the law.

In the early season, I always try to keep my spread as realistic as possible. In our part of duck country, traditionally, we have good numbers of mallards and woodies during the early part of the season. So, I’ll generally run about 12 to 18 mallards, 12 woody and six floating geese decoys. We have been running just about all Avian-X decoys of the past couple years and the ducks seem to like them. As the season progresses, we’ll introduce divers into our spread and possibly increase the number, but always have some type of motion in the spread.

This time of year you can get away with a bunch of calling, but as the season continues and birds become more educated it’s best to cut back on your calling. If it suits your hunting style, hammer down on the birds. I usually blow switch up between a single and double reed call on the big water. When hunting smaller water, I prefer just a double reed call.

I start off by calling a bunch, and if I’m not getting the response I want from the birds, I tone it down or stop calling altogether. Listen and watch to what and how the birds are reacting to your calling. Then make changes as time goes by.

For the opener and early season, I use as much motion as I can get away with. It doesn’t matter if it is a jerk string, wonder duck, mojo, or mallard machine, you need something putting ripples on the water making the decoys come to life. As the season continues, try using a different type of motion. If the water is calm, use a jerk cord to make the water move a little more. We have had great success with motion feeder-style decoys on calm days.

An old wise man told me, if you don’t practice shooting, all the work, time and money that is spent is all for naught. Get out to a local rod and run club and shoot a couple rounds of skeet or trap. You will be amazed at the difference it will make on opening morning, plus maybe you will discover a new pastime.

There is nothing worse than getting a big flock in and missing because you still have rust from last season. Make your practice as realistic as possible and shoot crossing shots and incoming clays as well.

For a lot of hunters, the duck boat and waders have not been out since the close of last year’s duck season. Take your rig to the lake or river and make sure it is running and fully operational. You also want to make sure your registration is current and you have all required personal flotation devices and a fire extinguisher, if needed.

Do yourself and hunting partners a huge favor –put your waders on. It’s amazing how they can “shrink” in the off season, and don’t forget to check for leaks. There is nothing worse on opening morning than to discover you have leaks as you’re putting out decoys. Finally, spend some time and refresh yourself on duck ID.

Just because you have been hunting for years, we do not want to miss identifying a duck. Spend some time and watch how birds fly and the wing speed. How the flock is flying can tell you a lot about which type of duck you are watching.

Most of all, have fun this fall and introduce a new hunter to the fun and excitement of waterfowl hunting.

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