Author Topic: Please criticize my duck hunt!  (Read 9801 times)

Offline jamesfromseattle

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Please criticize my duck hunt!
« on: December 05, 2021, 08:42:27 PM »
Not new to hunting, but nearly brand new to duck hunting. I did some jump shooting when I was younger but finally got some decoys this year. Iíve spent the last few years whining about the lack of salmon and steelhead opportunity in the fall and decided I need a new late fall hobby, so Iím trying to get this duck thing figured out.

Iíve been out a few times this year, but mostly just screwing around and trying to find places to hunt. Havenít actually shot a duck yet, but I think Iím getting closer. Up until today I donít think I was in the same zip code, but I think I found what seems like a good spot today. Saw a ton of ducks even though I didnít connect on any.

I made a lot of mistakes that I recognized, but Iím certain I also I made some mistake I didnít recognize. I would really appreciate any suggestions on what I could do better. I know criticizing how people hunt is normally frowned upon, but Iím inviting itÖplease flame away. I know I donít have a lot of the fundamentals down so Iím not sure if Iím doing things a little wrong or really wrong.

Iíll be vague about the location I hunted out of respect for anyone else that hunts there:

A few miles from Puget Sound in an agricultural area. There were a few thousand acres on farmland to the south, and a couple hundred acres of a marshy area to the north. Blind was on the west side of a flooded field facing east. Major employer in the area is a refinery. A rough sketch of the area is attached.

There were more ducks in the area than Iíve ever seen, and they appeared to be using the marsh to the north. Other than that, I couldnít figure out a pattern for what they were doing.


Wind was from the east then southeast. Maybe 5 mph, sustained for most of the morning. Weather was slightly below freezing at the start and slight above freezing once the sun was up. Partially clear, partially cloudy. No precipitation.

My understanding is that this is ok but not great weather for hunting. Not worth calling in sick for, but worth going, I think?


Blind was covered and partially submerged. Natural vegetation on the outside. The front came half way up my chest while sitting down, so my arms and head would have been visible. Is this too exposed?

Wore a raincoat with a hood and some old style digital camo. I generally think the latest camo is overrated in deer hunting, but I know it is more important for ducks. Do I need something better?

I have a dozen cheap floating mallard decoys. None of the cool stuff that moves. Iíd like to get a few successful hunts in before I dump a ton of money into decoys, but do I need more to have a realistic chance of success?

I did a J pattern because it seemed like the most basic option. After got home and re-read some articles I saw that the bottom of the J is supposed to face the wind so the duck land inside the J. I set this up backwards. Mistake recognized.


I got there half an hour before shooting light. Setup took longer than I planned on and I missed the first 20 minutes of shooting light. There were a ton of birds moving at first light. Mistake recognized. Need to get there earlier.


My calling experience consists of watching Youtube videos and blowing on a call in the house when my family is out. In other words, called skills are extremely limited.

I noticed that the birds in the area were not that vocalóat least compared to how they sound in TV shows. Especially the ducks flying, almost no sound. Is this normal or was it a uniquely quiet day?

Mostly kept the calling to simple quacks and the occasional attempt at a feeding call. In retrospect I wonder if I should have been calling at all if the birds in the air werenít responding? Is bad calling and too much calling worse than too little?

How it went:

There were birds flying the rest of the morning around the marsh to the north and the field to the east. Some large groups of around 20 down to solos. A couple times an eagle apparently stirred everything up on the field next to me.

One duck left the field next door and flew overhead. Pretty sure a drake mallard. Definitely not landing but I thought it was close enough to shoot. Shot at it twice, missed it twice. In retrospect, I think he was too far away. I had 30-40 yards in my head at the time of the shot, but after the fact I looked more closely at where he was when I shot and it was probably more like 70 and if anyone was watching they probably would have called it sky busting. Mistake recognized.

Another small flock (I think 4) flew directly overhead. I was fumbling to get my earplugs in and rushed and missed the shot. Iím also a bad shot a need to practice more, but thatís a whole other issue. I do think these ones were close enough to hit, so I donít regret trying to shoot themójust wish I did a better job.

Finally, a solo duck was circling to land on the field to the east. Had a shot at about 30-40 yards and I pulled the trigger without taking the safety off. Another symptom of not shooting enough.

None seemed remotely interested in landing my spread. Like, not even a look. This was a little surprising because there were enough ducks around that I thought at least one would try to land on my field by accident. I did watch dozens circle and land in the field to the eastóso they were in a landing mood. I wonder if having so many ducks next door was a bad thing in some ways? Why would they land in my dinky spread if there was a huge party next door?

The lack of any ducks landing on my field also makes me wonder if something else obvious was really off. Perhaps I was too visible in the blind? Or it was just a bad spot? Should the decoys have been closer to the edge of the pond? Or further out in the middle?

Please tell me all the reasons why Iím an idiot and didnít kill anything!

Offline jamesfromseattle

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Re: Please criticize my duck hunt!
« Reply #1 on: December 05, 2021, 08:57:52 PM »
Struggling with attachments. I think I've got it on this one.

Offline metlhead

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Re: Please criticize my duck hunt!
« Reply #2 on: December 05, 2021, 09:13:37 PM »
Criticize? Ok. Scrap that whole battle plan and quit overthinking this. You're not where ducks want to be. Find that spot. Kill ducks

Offline WSU

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Re: Please criticize my duck hunt!
« Reply #3 on: December 05, 2021, 09:25:33 PM »
Criticize? Ok. Scrap that whole battle plan and quit overthinking this. You're not where ducks want to be. Find that spot. Kill ducks

Seems simple but itís spot on. Scout until you find a spot that birds are actually landing at. In your case they are in the neighboring fields because thatís where they want to be. Youíll have very little luck trying to decoy them into somewhere they donít want to be.

Offline mburrows

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Re: Please criticize my duck hunt!
« Reply #4 on: December 05, 2021, 09:41:10 PM »
Sounds like youíre on the right track. Ducks just wanted to be somewhere else.


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Re: Please criticize my duck hunt!
« Reply #5 on: December 05, 2021, 09:51:17 PM »
You'll find that it's almost impossible to pull birds away from landing with live birds. Another tip, cause I suck at deciphering maps, I redo my damdest to try to put the sun at my back. Also, I would guess that you're swinging your head around to watch birds. Try to watch with your face down as much as possible and keep your movement to an absolute minimum.

Offline pd

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Re: Please criticize my duck hunt!
« Reply #6 on: December 05, 2021, 10:02:21 PM »
Bud, I know nothing about duck hunting.  But, I love your analysis.  Great post.  Keep trying.
Si vis pacem, para bellum

Offline Kola16

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Re: Please criticize my duck hunt!
« Reply #7 on: December 06, 2021, 01:31:37 AM »
Wow that's a game plan :chuckle: I will echo what others have said and add a little. These are the things in order of what new duck hunters get wrong in order of importance. These are the things you should be worrying about.

1. The most important part of duck hunting is being where the ducks want to be. "On the 'X.'" Put your decoys in the field/pond/lake/marsh where you have seen ducks on that field/pond/lake/marsh.

2. Being hidden is second. If you can see the ducks, they can see you. Your blind needs to be covered with natural vegetation EVERYWHERE, including in front of you. Swing/fold out panels are your best friend. Your camo should not matter. If you are in a good blind, you can wear a rainbow dress and it wouldn't be visible from the outside of the blind.

3. Calling...I guarantee you that you are scaring away ducks with your call :chuckle: That is not suppose to be a dis, that is just expected of any new duck hunter. There are duck hunters that have been hunting for 20 years, and still cannot blow a duck call right (although they think they can). The most common thing that new duck hunters do is that they just blow air into a duck call. Duck calling is not just blowing air. You have to say a word into a duck call. What word doesn't matter too much, but most people I think say the word, "hut." Your tongue hitting the roof of your mouth is what cuts off the word hut. Start off just by learning a quack, just 1 note. "Hut.......hut........hut--------->quack......quack........quack....." Simple, light calling is sometimes the most effective calling. The best thing you can do for calling is to meet an experienced caller in person and have them teach you to get you in the right direction. I have heard to many new duck hunters utter the phrase, "well I have been watching Youtube the last few years..." NO! :chuckle: Youtube is great for most things, but duck calling is unique.

4. Make a jerk string. They're cheap, easy and effective.

I wouldn't put your 12 decoys in a 'J.' With that few of decoys it would just look unnatural. Just put them in 2 separate groups of 6 or whatever random orientation that you would see 12 ducks in. I highly recommend you get more decoys. 4 dozen decoys will pull many more ducks out of the air than 1 dozen.
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Offline TVHunts

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Re: Please criticize my duck hunt!
« Reply #8 on: December 06, 2021, 03:47:34 AM »
Excellent post and great to see the help your getting!  Iím horrible with a call and donít use one when I get out.  As said already it can be very counterproductive if you donít know what your doing. 

Best of luck to you :tup:

Hey Slobbering JOE,

 STOP the freaking INVASION

Offline Special T

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Re: Please criticize my duck hunt!
« Reply #9 on: December 06, 2021, 04:40:26 AM »
Calling is hard. Until you have thebbasic quackndown perfect, dont call. A soft quack is appropriate all the time.
 I personally thinkyou have to go big or small. Ive seen 2 ducks in puddles ditches or nearly any kind location.
In archery we have something like the way of the superior man. When the archer misses the center of the target, he turns round and seeks for the cause of his failure in himself. 


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Re: Please criticize my duck hunt!
« Reply #10 on: December 06, 2021, 05:42:11 AM »
You already mentioned time of day.  Most flying is right before shooting hours to sun-up.  Be ready to go 20 min before shooting time.

They really see faces.  Camo head net is a must-or a hat with a big bill to hide your face.  No movement of your head when they are decoying in!

As someone else said, calling by saying words like hut, with a sharp cut off at the "t" is good .  Tika tika tika for the feeding call.  And call from your diaphragm,  not your mouth if that makes sense.  Treat the call like a musical instrument.

Consider a guided hunt to learn the ropes.  Few hundred bucks might cut out a dozen trips of your trial and error.

Good luck!
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Keep your eyes fixed on where the trail meets the sky.
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Just sit back and enjoy your ride
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Offline Stein

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Re: Please criticize my duck hunt!
« Reply #11 on: December 06, 2021, 07:15:15 AM »
I think I know what spot you were at.  Being on the X is true, but when the x is someplace you can't access you are in the same boat as the rest of us public land pounders.

If it's the area I'm thinking of, it can be difficult as birds usually come from behind the blind and you aren't allowed to hunt outside the blind so you make do.  If the blind is flooded it's no fun, but stay as hidden as you can, especially your face.  Don't make big movements.

A bunch of birds will be going around to other areas as you noticed, you should have a chance at a few that will either land right at daylight or come in for a look close enough for shots.  The first few minutes are key in many of these spots.

The only advice I have is keep at it.  Most public spots will be tougher hunting, certainly nothing like you see on TV.  Most of the time, expect most of the birds to not be interested, you are looking for the few that are.

Finally, right now is a crazy time with the flooding and birds are in different spots than they normally are.  I haven't seen conditions like this in the 7 or so years I have been hunting.

Offline KP-Skagit

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Re: Please criticize my duck hunt!
« Reply #12 on: December 06, 2021, 07:28:38 AM »
I think from reading the situation you were in that you did about as good as could be expected in terms of opportunity. Few years ago I had a buddy invite me on hunt talking up this amazing spot he had. We got out there and his great spot was a grass field while the neighboring field was a flooded potato field. I thought to myself that our only chance would be pass shooting birds going to the spuds. That's all we got.

Out of everything you mentioned I would focus on location first, how to set up your decoys next, maybe side by side with calling. Calling can be tricky and different situations require different approaches. I am a good caller out of the bayfront and garbage in the fields.

The last thing I would worry about is camo. Conceal yourself as best you can, avoid sudden moves with birds overhead, don't look straight up at birds overhead as they will see your face. I am currently doing my duck hunting in an olive drab rain coat hiding in natural cover.


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Re: Please criticize my duck hunt!
« Reply #13 on: December 06, 2021, 08:03:58 AM »
Best lesson I ever learned was scout as much as you hunt. If your on the X life is GOOD.  Lots of guys never scout but they have been hunting the same area forever. Being military I would move to a new area and have to start over.  Realized I was getting way more birds than most because I was scouting way more than most. :twocents:

Offline jamesfromseattle

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Re: Please criticize my duck hunt!
« Reply #14 on: December 06, 2021, 08:50:19 AM »
Thanks guys, appreciate the input from everyone. One of the tough things about being new to the game is that I'm not really sure which ducks I should be getting an opportunity and which ones are just never going to cooperate. And it's easy to overthink things when you spend all day sitting in one spot. Sounds like my experience wasn't totally abnormal and it just wasn't going to be lights out in this spot regardless of what I did.

My take aways from everyone's comments are:
1. Keep grinding it out and exploring different spots.
2. Forget about calling for a while and just stay still. Once I start to have some amount of success I'll start trying to call again with a light touch. I'm pretty sure that trying to call also significantly increased the amount I was fidgeting around. (Pick up the call, drop the call, pick up the gun. Rather than just point and shoot the gun.)
3. I'm probably overthinking the decoy spread. A jerk string looks like it'd be easy and cheap to put together so I'll give this a shot. Once I get some things figured out I'll consider spending some money and getting more decoys.

Within the next two weeks I'll have a dead duck on this thread.

@Stein, yep, I think you probably know where I'm at. Spent much of the day twisted around trying to see them coming from behind. And yeah...I sure could have used another pair of socks. Only reason I wasn't worried about frostbite is because the water was in its liquid state and therefore above freezing--albeit only slightly.


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