Ducks get smarter as they fly south

Published 12:22 pm Wednesday, December 13, 2000

Outdoors Columnist
Ducks leaving the Dakotas and Canadian provinces get smarter with every hundred miles they travel south. They have learned to recognize suspicious decoy layouts, callers that sound more like a choking chicken than a mallard and duck blinds that standout like pizza parlors.
Those that make it to the central states have earned the equivalent to a master's degree. By the time they reach the southern coastal states they have earned a doctorate in "survivability". While we may be dealing with smarter ducks than our northern friends, they can be hunted successfully if we do our part.
Camouflage and the ability to hide should be the first concern of hunters working wary waterfowl. In many cases, seasoned waterfowl avoid the big boat blinds and pit blinds that worked during the early part of the northern season. Hunters need to concentrate on two aspects-natural and low profile. Natural can mean little more than using native vegetation to camouflage a blind or small boat using the proper seasonal colors. This may require a change in camouflage material or re-grassing a blind, but the results will be worth the effort.
Camouflage goes hand in hand with blinds. Water fowlers may want to consider two or three smaller single-person blinds to hide a group instead of one large structure. These smaller blinds are easier to camouflage and can be constructed with a lower profile – a definite plus when educated ducks begin avoiding places with heavy enough cover to hide hunters and blinds.
Mobility is a third consideration for the southern duck hunter. Permanent blinds may be nice, but the ability to pick up and relocate to where the birds are actively working has obvious benefits. Late in the season, these preferred areas can change from day to day, and mobile waterfowlers enjoy an advantage that the box-blind hunters don't.
These portable blinds are available in a variety of patterns and provide excellent foundations on which to place native rushes or reeds. They can also be used by themselves as cover or blankets and are particularly effective in field-hunting situations.
Finally, consider your decoys and calling. In the case of decoys, waterfowlers might do well to decrease the number of decoys instead of putting out large spreads like the ducks have become accustomed to. Small spreads with some kind of motion decoy may well be more productive.
Good calling can make ducks swarm around a blind like bees at a honey tee, but bad calling will make them head to the next county. Here the rule is simple-if you can call, call sparingly. If you can't call, take someone who can or don't call at all.
The 2000/2001 duck season dates are December 9 to December 11 and December 15 to January 30.

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