How to Hunt Ducks

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Published on: Oct. 2, 2000

Last revision: Nov. 5, 2010

or the ballistically comparable nontoxic shot alternatives. If Grandpa always used No. 4 lead shot for mallards, trade up to No. 2 in steel.

Many hunters find No. 3 steel shot a good all-purpose load. For decoying ducks at short range, No. 5 or No. 6 steel shot can provide excellent results.

Waders are a necessity in most duck hunting situations. Features to look for include insulation, reinforced knees, a shell pocket and a fit that allows easy movement. Waders don’t have to be expensive to be serviceable, but I’d advise you to buy the best you can afford.

Decoys come in a dizzying array of sizes and shapes, but the Missouri duck hunter’s mainstay is the standard-sized, plastic mallard. Add some pintails and other species, plus a few feeding or sleeping duck decoys to make your spread more realistic.

Decoys come with weighted keels or water keels. The water keel is a hollow chamber beneath the body that steadies the decoy in rough water or wind. These work as well as weighted keels and are lighter to carry.

Flexible lead strap weights will stop decoys from drifting with the wind, and they are easy to secure when not in use by wrapping the weight around the keel. Tie them on with braided nylon cord, but avoid bright colors.

Four dozen decoys are enough to attract ducks in small wetlands. Use at least six or seven dozen in large, open water, especially if you have competition from other hunters. To keep down the cost of a large decoy spread, buy unpainted decoys and decorate them yourself, using a factory job as a model.

Nylon mesh bags with shoulder straps are indispensable for carrying decoys if you don’t have a boat. Once you accumulate more decoys than you can carry on your back, a canoe is the cheapest, most versatile means of transportation. A johnboat with a motor is handy when you have a long haul to your hunting spot. For serious duck hunters with plenty of cash, it’s hard to beat layout boats or fully equipped duck boats that double as mobile blinds.

The choice of a duck call is personal. A call that makes one hunter the Pied Piper of pintails can sound like a rusty kazoo in another’s hands. Try several calls before buying one. Then invest in an instructional tape and practice every chance you get. Listening to real birds in the field also helps

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