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:
Hung for two days in the garage and sitting in the bottom of my freezer for the last three years, I was wondering if the goose was still good. One of a snow and specklebelly pair that I had taken in the Sacramento Valley while trying out a new SP10 and 3-1/2” Remington 1187, it fell to the matched Federal Premium Blackcloud BB-sized pellets.
That Blackcloud collar is the reason birds just drop when they get hit...
When I was done with the aging process and had plucked them (the fresh hearts and livers had gone into a Ziploc, the day the geese were taken, for a later liver paté greatly enjoyed and long missed) I wrapped them in a three layers of cellophane.
Surprisingly, three years later, not even a trace of freezer burn!
Originally, I was going to do a book review of Chef John D. Folse hunter’s cookbook bible, After the Hunt, but then something wonderful happened—the first round of figs turned a beautiful dark purple, signaling their ripeness!
My huntin’ buddy Hank Shaw has written an number of articles on syrups, and one fig syrup recipe caught my eye. But, I enjoy eating my figs fresh and whole, so in order to stretch them, I decided to make the sauce for my goose more like a turkey’s cranberry sauce, thick and more like a jam.
Figs from now until end of A Zone deer season in September
On the subject of the meat and “things not to do” once again surprised me by actually doing them. Always told that refreezing meats would make them somehow worse didn’t seem to be true with this goose.
Two weeks ago, I had gone through the whole process of defrosting and brining the goose, but when the day came for cooking, I realized I didn’t have all the ingredients for the full dinner, nor the time—probably happened to you as you remembered a dinner or other meeting almost too late?
Taking the goose in the pot that it had been sitting in to dry (I like to remove the brine for a day to let the skin dry in order to improve the browning and crisping of the skin), I put the whole thing in the meat freezer.
A week later, I had everything and the time….defrosting again, with trepidation: I was told that meat frozen and refrozen is just horrible….And when it was all done, the goose was delicious!
Since the Fig Sauce takes the longest, make sure to prepare it first.
2. Save four figs and cut them lengthwise into sixths and set aside.
3. Add all ingredients and bring to a fast boil, thicking the sauce through evaporation—about 25 minutes on high heat. Sauce should be the consistency of thin jam.
4. Add the figs slices and simmer for another 10 minutes and set aside.
1 Specklebelly goose
1 large red onion
1 tbsp Salt
1 tbsp Black pepper
1 tbsp Olive Oil
1. Brine the goose over night in a gallon of water with one cup each of sugar and kosher salt (use only ceramic or plastic containers so that there’s no reaction of the brine with metal).
2. Drain the brine and pat away the excess moisture on the goose and place it back in the empty brining container
3. Let is dry in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours.
4. Place the red onion in the cavity and rub the goose skin olive oil and then the salt and black pepper. Truss the legs or simply stick in the open cavity under the tail.
5. Place in a cast-iron skillet and place in an oven that has been preheated to 400-degree Fahrenheit.
6. Roast for 25-30 minutes at 400 degrees.
7. Remove and let rest for 10 minutes and then carve, serving with a two cooked fig slices and sauce.
8. Save the goose drippings and use to brown the potatoes.
Cook goose like a great steak -- medium rare!
Roast Potatoes with Salsa de Mani (Peanut Butter Sauce)
Salsa de mani ready to serve
Preparation time: 40 minutes
Modified to use country roast potatoes instead of the traditional boiled, this family recipe has been served by mom ever since I can remember. An Ecuadorian recipe of Inca origins, it’s normally served with that other Incan delicacy, cuy (roast guinea pig).
6 Red Potatoes
3/4 Cup Chunky Peanut butter (sweetened)
1/2 Cup White onion, thinly sliced crescents
1 tbsp of Achiote seeds
1 Cup Milk
1 whole Onion
Pinch of salt
Wrap the potatoes in moistened paper towel and put them in the microwave for 6-7 minutes until soft to squeeze.
Quarter them and dowse with olive oil.
Fry the achiote seeds until the oil leeches out.
Remove the seeds and then fry the onion in the red-tinted achiote oil until they’ve sweated and translucent.
Add the milk, pinch of salt, and then disolve the peanut butter in the milk, stirring as it comes to a low boil. Don’t over cook the sauce. It should be creamy and the consistency of almost watery tooth paste, not peanut butter.
Put the quartered potatoes in skillet previously used to roast the goose, uncovered, to brown in a 500 degree Faranheit oven, 10-15 minutes.
NOTE: I used the Big Green Egg for the goose and the potatoes.
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.