Only a few more weeks and a number of duck hunters will be heading out for the start of waterfowl season. At the outset of duck hunting, even the worst duck caller will get shooting. As the weeks go by and the ducks get wise, the numbers go down…
Good calling and understanding duck behavior is what separates mid and late season successful duck hunters from the rest of the pack. Often this is the result of always being on the lookout for good information and practicing calling as much as possible.
If you haven’t picked up your duck call since last season, you better start now to be ready for this season. Get a good CD or DVD and imitate the master on the screen or coming through the speakers to you.
More Repetitions are Best
Some might think the best place to practice is at home. In your car, as long as you can pay attention to your driving as well, is the best place. You’re alone; you don’t have to pay attention to volume and most importantly, especially if you commute to work, is you get regular practice.
Like many activities that require muscle memory, more repetitions and less time is better than less repetitions and more time: ten minutes a day, everyday is much better than one hour once a week.
Too many hunters are want to build the biggest blinds on the refuge, especially the beginners. The smart guys, the ones who come back with stringers full of mallards and sprig are those who know how to take their profile down as low to the ground as possible.
For years I used to drag out a major coffin blind that used to be manufactured by the Outlaw Decoy company in in Spokane, WA. Sadly they went bankrupt and I could never get another from them.
Gianguinto has a better idea: get one of those cheap kids sleds you can find Walmart and Big 5, just about every sporting goods store that caters to skiers and snow enthusiasts has them. Paint the thing black or olive drab, and you can use it to pull your decoy bag out to the blind, and then you can lay down in it. Put on a camo facemask and you can call with impunity.
You’ll be able to look straight up at the ducks and keep your call directed at them (something Billy and I talk about in the Cork’s Outdoors Radio interview below) and then all you have to do is sit up and shoot—you’ll be amazed at how many more ducks you’ll take this season!
Check Your Dekes
If you get started now you might have time to get your decoys in shape this season. Many have thousands, especially if you hunt a private duck club and put out your own dekes.
Unlike many who’ve told me in the past that more females is better than males, master duck hunter and instructor Billy Gianquinto says it’s better to have more males in your decoy set. From how he describes it in our interview, I’d have to agree: much easier to see that silver-gray off a drake, than the brown camo of a hen’s feathers.
Check out Billy’s Duck Calling Techniques DVD where he and assistant show you proper breath control, how and why to do “changes ups” and variations, and how to best use volume and aggressive calling. http://www.billygducks.com/Products.html
Listen to Billy’s instruction below on a number things that will help improve your duck hunting this coming season: great calling sequences!
For your daily commute on your MP3 player – Download and Enjoy Billy Gianquinto’s interview on Cork’s Outdoors Radio:
Rabbits reside in the past memories of many as their introduction to hunting. Rabbits remind me of the elation of returning to the US after spending a childhood in South Vietnam and Singapore—where the only ones with guns were government personnel and guerrillas, and most of the hunting happening was of the two-legged variety.
With a 16 gauge Marlin pump handed down to me by my father, who had last used it before he went off to lay down telephone lines across Latin America in the late 1950s, I ventured forth to Arroyo Seco in Los Padres National Forest. As I wasn’t old enough to drive, it meant that it was a family affair and we didn’t get to the forest during the optimum morning times, and left before the best evening times to make it back to the Bay Area before dark.
One day, though, I got lucky. Our dog, that must have been a mix between either a beagle or Spaniel and a terrier, who loved to dig and chase, suddenly got onto a small cottontail that bolted and I shot.
I only hit it with a few pellets, and not knowing how to finish it off with my hands, I simply stepped back and aimed again. Problem was that I didn’t really understand chokes and how I had to walk much further, else turn that small brush cottontail into hamburger.
The experience almost turned me off hunting all together—I still don’t like to hunt small game with a shotgun, but more for not having to pick shot out of my meal. But then the next year, I got a Marlin semi-automatic .22 rifle with a tubular magazine!
Even with the issued open sights, I could drill a rabbit through the head, wasting none of what would become my favorite meal. No more stray pellets puncturing the stomach or gall bladder, tainting the sweet cottontail meat…like chicken but so much tastier. It’s no wonder that my natural progression in adulthood would be back to the rifle that I was a introduced to shooting with in the first place: a pellet gun.
Without all that “bang” that comes with gunpowder, I’ve come to enjoy the silence of hunting with a bow that in the world of rifles is most imitated by an air rifle. It’s really fun shooting a pellet rifle for a number of reasons: the ammo’s cheaper, it’s quieter, there’s an unlimited amount of propellant (we breath it every second) and there’s no smoke preventing you from keeping an eye on the target.
For this reason the airgun was used extensively during the 1600s and 1700s for hunting. In war, Napoleon saw the major effect of the quiet airgun, un-affected by rain, against his troops, that he had a standing order that all enemy combatants captured with an airgun in possession be executed on the spot.
My Wyoming huntin’ buddies Gerald Gay (l) and James Rivera (c) and bison taken with a .61 cal air rifle
As a fanatic small-game hunter with a taste for large cottontails, I’ve learned the merits of putting a .22 caliber pellet rifle through it paces. While last year was my introduction to the break barrel offerings of Crosman, this year I plan to put their scoped Benjamin Marauder through a number of hunts!
The Marauder, a rifle that uses an air reservoir much like ancient rifles, is similar to the AirArms rifle that airgun aficionado James Marchington uses on his own hunts for rabbits in his homeland of the UK, hunting in England and the Isle of Skye. A few months ago, I had the pleasure of watching his DVD release (I think I’m even the first one to get it in NTSC, instead of PAL).
As Marchington stated in our interview that follows, technology has come a long way: how much easier it is to teach by producing a DVD as compared to publishing a book. And what an entertaining lesson it is in his production: Rabbits — Airgun Hunting With James Marchington!
Through a number of nicely shot scenes, the viewer is taught how to choose an effective pellet rifle, and type of scope to mount. In the field, some of it shot on the beautiful and very rustic Scottish Isle of Skye, Marchington takes the audience through a number of sighting and shooting sessions.
The topics also touch on clothing (which I especially enjoy because he’s not wearing camouflage, but a good hunting tartan) and go in-depth into the skills of stalking and using the terrain to get close to the rabbit. If there’s ever a DVD to get for a child to show them something they can easily go hunting for, which would teach them to hunt just about every other game, this is it!
So much out there is directed toward the adult, and really doesn’t cover the hunting opportunity of rabbits in a way that I’m sure will appeal to the neophyte hunter, young or adult. Those rifles mentioned are definitely “adult” pellet rifles, and Marchington stresses the important of all types of good woodcraft and rifle stewardship.
Marchington makes a great teacher and yet another reason I highly suggest getting a copy to watch with your son or daughter.
As for the hunting in the field (it’s not all about picking equipment and talking about woodcraft), Marchington mounted a Guncam on the rifle so that the viewer can see exactly what the shooter is seeing as he shoots. Very impressives footage and shows how effectively a .22 pellet rifle can dispatch a large rabbit as quickly as a rifle shooting a .22 long rifle cartridge.
It’s amazing how the screech of a poorly blown duck call can sound like a teacher drawing her nails across a blackboard. Such is the sound of waterfowl hunters who start much too late in their preparation for the season.
Being prepared isn’t just about calling, either: there’s making sure your shotgun’s shooting as well as last year; checking your duck jacket to see if you need to patch some holes, or just get a new one. Is your ammo shooting the way you think it is?
Every year it behooves the hunter to make sure everything is working as they want, and to find out long before it’s time to head out into the field. All too often the first chance at putting wild duck on the table turns dismal—leaky waders, missed shots—or, more dangerously so, duckboats sinking!
A great waterfowl season begins months before that opener in October.
Take out your waterfowl hunting clothing now. If it’s your duckhunting coat, hopefully you didn’t pack it away in a footlocker or drawer for the off-season. This compresses the insulating materials and such repeated season storage depletes their ability to keep you warm the next season. Check it for those holes, and perhaps take it to the tailor to have those shell loops replaced if they’re all stretched out.
Spring is also the best time to start your calling practice. As master duck caller—and the one who taught me how to call ducks as a thirteen-year-old newbie duck hunter—Billy Gianquinto recommends, every duck hunter should purchase their calls in spring, get a good instruction tape or CD and practice everyday. It’s during this time, that I carry my duck and goose calls in my truck so that I can practice during a day’s commute.
What’s nice about practicing your calling in the vehicle is that you need to have one hand free for driving, which forces you to learn how to use your call with one hand: much more appropriate for a duck hunter holding a shotgun in a blind with the non-call hand. This especially comes in handy when learning how to use a goose flute with one hand instead of the normal two.
Get a good collection of duck hunting videos, not just the slicing DVDs that just show the kill shots. Get the DVDs that take you from calling to learning how to set a decoy set, to best of all, how to call based on what the ducks are doing. Gianquinto and Cajun Duck Commander Robertson Clan have some great calling instruction videos.
Hittin’ What You’re Shootin’ At
Cork Graham successfully testing the original Black Cloud through a Remington 11-87 and SP-10 on Sacramento Valley snows and specks
Now’s a great time to look at what your shotgun really does and with the ammo you choose to shoot out of it. So many duck hunters just purchase a shotgun and a box of shells and head straight out into the duck blind, not even knowing how their shotgun is shooting.
What sighting in at the range is to a deer hunter with a newly purchased rifle and scope, patterning a shotgun is to a duck and goose hunter.
The average hunter might be surprised at how many people who purchase a new shotgun think that it need only be pointed in the general direction, and you hit what you’re shooting for. Must have been all those cartoons and mythical descriptions of how the trench guns worked in battle, especially to infantrymen whose rifle skills were wanting—but there are many that think a shotgun has magical properties.
When I received my first pump shotgun I was surprised at how much I was missing. This was a shotgun built by a major manufacturer—what could be wrong? A trip to the range and aiming at a dot on a large piece of white butcher paper quickly offered an answer.
The shotgun was patterning up to the right. I could have taken it to a gunsmith and had the pump modified, but instead I just remembered to adjust my shot picture while shooting. Had I not taken the shotgun to the range to find out what was really happening, I’d probably have gone on with a hit and miss for years.
The decision to pattern a shotgun should be taken not when just getting a new shotgun, but also to see how a new shot load does out a specific firearm. It’s also wise to check into a new choke when purchasing a shotgun.
For years I only shot the different chokes that came packaged with my shotguns and never inquired into the multitude of chokes, until last year and a chat with George Trulock, owner of Trulock Chokes and a man with a vast firearms knowledge that started in law enforcement, and distilled through many years researching the effects of chokes on shot. I learned how 3-inch chokes are a prime length for patterning a shot load especially steel shot.
Unlike a rifle that is accurate because of the effect on a bullet by the rifling, a shotgun influences its shot effectiveness by forcing a load of shot into a column that will spread out in as uniform a pattern as possible. By having a choke that that forces the load in three inches instead of two, the pattern delivered is much more uniform: think shot hitting a wall, because it’s so steep and angle, as compared to sliding along the wall because the angle is lessened by the longer length of the 3-inch choke.
The importance of chokes appropriate to the load was made clear a couple years ago when I tried Federal Premium’s Black Cloud ammunition for the first time. What I consider the deadliest duck medicine out there, I noticed that not only did the unique collared barrel shot perform amazingly, with solidly killed ducks, but also that the Trulock Black Cloud choke I got for hunting with the new cartridge performed admirably. One of the main reasons it works so well is that it’s designed to let out the shot and wad in a staggered manner that permits the shot to pattern effectively without creating so many flyers that destroy a pattern.
New for this year, Federal Premium has the new Black Cloud Snow Goose load. While the first release of Black Cloud was flying at 1450 fps, the new Snow Goose is screaming at 1635 fps!
That means it really cuts the geese, but that also means its patterning is effected differently than the slower shot. According to Trulock, the higher the speed, the wilder the flyers as they bounce off the inside wall of the choke instead of slide along its sides.
As Trulock said, it’s a tug-of-war between killing speed and uniform patterns. Too many flyers and the loss of not only the uniformity of the pattern, but also more holes in that pattern that a duck or goose can escape through.
Now, all these are just guidelines. Like everyone’s personal preferences for hunting equipment, a shotgun has its own personality and by learning it’s personality, not just shooting it, but modifying it, do you make sure every shot counts…and the earlier you start preparing for the fall season, the more prepared you’ll be to make your fall waterfowl season that much more enjoyable and successful.
For your daily commute on your MP3 player – Download and Enjoy the latest news at Federal Premium on Cork’s Outdoors Radio:
TOPICS: Federal Premium PR Manager Tim Brandt talks about the history of Federal Ammunition’s merge with ATK, long line of excellent ammunition for big-game and waterfowl hunting, along with the new and upcoming offerings.