Editor’s Note: Mike Still, of Judsonia, Arkansas, has been hunting ducks for over 40 years and has been a member of the Mossy Oak Pro Staff for 7 years. Somewhat surprisingly we learned his favorite pattern is the original Bottomland camo for hunting waterfowl. “The reason I like Bottomland is because I primarily hunt flooded timber, and Bottomland looks more like a tree trunk, especially when I’m standing in the shadow of a tree, than a real tree trunk looks,” Still explains. The good news is the forecast for duck season this year is that there will be plenty of ducks coming down the flyways.
I’m often asked if I guide hunters on public lands, and I say, “Yes, I do.” The next question that comes is, “What do the hunters who pay you to guide them think about your taking them to public land?” “They love it,” I answer. I don’t charge when I guide on public lands. Now, if I’m guiding and getting paid to guide, I’ll guide on private lands. Many times I’ll have friends or clients I’ve hunted with in the past who will call and ask, “Are you hunting with anybody in the morning?” If I answer “No,” they’ll say they’ve found ducks on public land and ask if I’d like to hunt with them and help them out in the morning. I don’t charge for that type of guiding, because I’ll learn new places to hunt.
I’ve never run into anyone who doesn’t want to hunt public lands in Arkansas. I’ve had a good number of friends come in from out of town who have wanted to hunt public lands and have been tickled to death to hunt public lands with me. Sometimes the places we’ll be hunting have been shot over 2-3 times every day during duck season. That’s when being able to read the ducks and understanding when to call and when not to call pays-off.
If I can get a duck to look back at me and make one pass over the hole, I really pay attention to how they react to my calls. I read wing beats more than any other factor. When I give a call, and a duck speeds up his wing beats, I know he doesn’t like that call. If a duck slows down his wing beats and turns his head to look, I know I’ve got that duck’s attention. That’s when I start using hard, single-cut feeding calls to sound like a single hen. This call sounds like: tick, tick, tick, tick, pause, tick, tick, tick, tick. If you’re feeding ducks in a park, you’ll notice they do that single tick more than any call, because that’s the feeding call that a duck gives when she’s feeding. She doesn’t give that fast excited a tick, a tick, a tick, fast call that many hunters like to blow. Sometimes, depending on the ducks I’m trying to call, I’ll shut-up and let the duck come into the decoys without me calling. On another flight of ducks, I may call to them all the way until they land on the water.
I’m often asked what duck calls I use, and I like a Gaston Custom Duck Call (www.gastoncustomcalls.com, 334-637-1130) made in Thomasville, Alabama. I’ve been friends with David Gaston for 30 years, and I believe he builds one of the finest duck calls I’ve ever blown. I helped him design the new Timber Duck Call that he’s producing now - one of the nastiest calls you’ll ever blow. I define nasty as being extremely ducky on the low end of the call, and it produces really-raspy barks and quacks. You also can get a really nasally, muffled hen quack out of it like I’ve heard real ducks give. This call has enough volume that you can bear down on it hard, and it doesn’t clear out on the top end. The call’s got enough rasp on the top end that you can turn a duck’s head and get him to come back.
To learn more about hunting, check out John E. Phillips’ new eBook and print book, “Bowhunting Deer: Mossy Oak Pros Know Bucks and Bows.” You also can download a free Kindle app that enables you to read the book on your iPad, computer or Smartphone.
For information on making jerky from your deer to provide a protein-rich snack, you can download a free book from http://johninthewild.com/free-books.