Getting ducks within reach of your shotgun can be tough. Everything has to go just right to get ducks to drop their feet and glide into your decoys. More times than not, something will go wrong. The slightest flaw in your presentation will send ducks back in the sky and headed south. There’s a number of things that tend to flare ducks from your hide, but we’ve narrowed down some of the best of the worst. Here are 10 reasons ducks flare from your blind.
1. You Call Too Much
Some say it’s not possible to call too much when duck hunting. And there are places where the decoy numbers and volume of birds necessitate an endless raucous of calls. However, there are also places where too much calling will flare your ducks. Pay attention to how the ducks are responding to your call. Do they lock up, or pick up, when you put the call to your lips? There are times when you’ll need to blow ‘til you’re red in the face and struggling to breathe. But more times than not, a soft and subtle calling approach will finish ducks better once they’ve come back to the hole for a further look at your spread.
2. You Got a Looker
Hunt ducks long enough, and you’ll spend time in the blind with a Looker. This person is typically the first timer or inexperienced hunter. They are the boy or girl, or maybe grown adult, that can’t help but look up into the sky when the blind boss says, “Get down,” or “Don’t move.” They’ll rubberneck at a moment’s notice, showing their bright, shiny pie-face for every duck to see. These hunters are likely the most common culprit when it comes to flaring ducks. You gotta be prepared for these guys or gals. Keep extra face paint on hand, as well as a few extra face masks. Nobody likes to be called out for being the Looker, but it must be done to avoid flaring ducks for the remainder of the hunt.
3. Your Decoy Spread is Bad
The way you set your decoy spread matters. And while you may kill ducks with a random scattering of decoys, the hunter that masters the art of properly setting decoys will simply kill more ducks. There are a number of variables to consider here. Hole size, wind direction, duck species, motion and much more. Ducks will flare off a decoy spread that’s out of place. Also, look for decoys that aren’t standing upright, or are covered in snow or ice. Your decoys are designed to paint a picture. Take the time to make sure you’re sending the right message with your spread.
4. The Wind is Calm
Calm, windless days are the thorn in the side for a duck hunter. Sure, decoys sitting still on water that looks like glass make for a great photo, but most hunters aren’t there to shoot photos. They want to kill ducks. And if you want to kill ducks, your decoys better be moving. Wind makes that happen. A brisk wind brings your decoys to life like nothing else. The wind makes them appear to spin, twist, scoot and swim. Without these movements, ducks will often flare off your setup.
5. You Got a Pointer
Much like the Looker, most every blind has a Pointer as well. The Pointer is the duck hunter in the blind that fails to be cautious when pointing out ducks on their approach. They feel obligated to keep everyone in the blind up to date on where the birds are at in the air at any given moment, and they do so by pointing with their hands. It might not seem like much, but a bare hand flashing in the hole is just enough to flare ducks from your blind.
6. You Called at the Wrong Time
There is a time to call and a time to keep your mouth shut. Experienced duck hunters have learned this over the years. Of course, the amount of calling needed can vary depending on where you’re hunting, how big of water you’re on, and how many decoys you have around you. But there are some basics to keep in mind. Watch a duck’s response to your calls, and stick with what makes them turn and settle their wings.
Avoid blowing them out on the approach. When they’re headed in your direction, ease up on the calls, and switch to finisher sounds. Soft quacks and chatter on the water are great sounds when the birds are swinging in tight. Call hard at them when they are flying away from you and when they are rounding the corners, but tone it down once again as they make the approach. Too much volume when they are in tight will often flare them from your blind.
7. There’s No Movement on the Water
As stated earlier with wind, lack of movement on the water can flare ducks. Realistic movement in your decoys is a game changer. Without it, you’ll likely flare ducks. Make sure to add a jerk chord, swimmer decoys, pulsating duck butts, kickers, flappers, and spinners. The key is to bring your decoys to life with the movement your decoys display on the water.
8. The Dog Jumped
A good dog is often the best part of most any bird hunting adventure, particularly when it comes to retrieving ducks. There’s truly nothing like watching a dog do what God created it to do. And while a dog will typically help you retrieve more birds on the hunt, they can also cost you a few birds if they don’t exhibit proper duck blind manners.
A dog that’s not disciplined enough to sit tight until sent will often catch the eyes of approaching ducks. In their eagerness to make another retrieve, some dogs run up and down the dog ramp. They whimper, whine, and even bark. And while their passion is admirable, these behaviors will flare ducks from your blind.
9. They Heard You Talking
Countless opportunities are blown simply because ducks hear the hunters talking, laughing and cutting up in the blind. It happens all the time, particularly with larger groups of hunters. The blind boss does his best to whisper-shout for everyone to get down and hush, but inevitably there will always be a hunter (or child) that didn’t get the memo. They keep right on talking and telling stories – and flaring ducks that were nearly in the hole.
10. You Wore the Wrong Camo
Blending in to your hide matters as much in duck hunting as most any other critter you pursue all season. Your ability to blend in with your surroundings makes a difference. It’s easily the most overlooked aspect of any duck hunt. Camo is camo, right? Not a chance! Camo that adequately blends you into the blind, or against a tree is what’ll dupe the eyes of approaching ducks. Some hunters show up to the duck blind in the same high-dollar camo they bought for deer season, despite it being a pattern that was designed to blend in with the skyline. Don’t be that guy! If your camo looks white or blue against the drab colors of a duck blind, you will flare ducks.
Dodge the duck hunting mistakes mentioned above, and you’ll be on your way to more ducks on the strap this season.