When a hunter acts ir­re­spon­si­bly, Mr. Arter­burn shuts down hunt­ing


Outdoor Life - - NEWS - BY TOM CAR­PEN­TER

IIF DUCKS AP­PROACH your spread and then sud­denly flare off in dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions, I can al­most guar­an­tee there’s some­thing wrong with your hide. But when ducks ap­proach your setup and then give you the cold shoul­der, buzz by out of range, or set their wings for the wrong spot—and it hap­pens more than once—the prob­lem is likely with your de­coy spread. And the fix is a lit­tle more com­pli­cated than throw­ing on some more face paint.

In­stead of just hop­ing the next flock of ducks will fin­ish, get out there and trou­bleshoot the spread. Here’s how to make tweaks for the most com­mon fly-by sce­nar­ios.

PROB­LEM: Ducks set their wings but are land­ing way far out.

ANAL­Y­SIS: A de­coy spread sit­u­ated too close to the hunt­ing blind or hide­out doesn’t in­vite ducks in to a con­ve­nient land­ing zone that’s well within shot­gun range.

FIX: Move the de­coy spread far­ther away, of­fer­ing a gap or slot be­tween you and the de­coys that shows the next flock an invit­ing place to land.

 PROB­LEM: Ducks are locked up on the spread but then land just short of shot­gun range.

ANAL­Y­SIS: This prob­lem of­ten hap­pens in a cross­wind, when ducks ap­proach into the wind but put their land­ing gear down well short of the de­coys that are right in front of you.

FIX: When hunt­ing a cross­wind, move the whole de­coy spread far­ther up­wind so that ducks set­ting their wings into the wind for a short land­ing are do­ing so right in front of you.  PROB­LEM: Ducks show in­ter­est, flut­ter, but then flare (and your hide is per­fect). ANAL­Y­SIS: If you are cer­tain that ev­ery­one is hid­den well (in­clud­ing the dog), then the most likely prob­lem is that there’s no place in your spread for the birds to land.

FIX: Go with a pod plan. Split your de­coy spread into two groups, one to ei­ther side, with an invit­ing gap in the mid­dle.

 PROB­LEM: Heads turn, the ducks take a closer look, but then the flock con­tin­ues on.

ANAL­Y­SIS: This is the most vex­ing of all de­coy spread prob­lems. You can sit and bird-watch, or you can get cre­ative and do some­thing about it.

FIX: Fix­ing this sit­u­a­tion is an art, not a sci­ence. But there are sev­eral con­cepts to con­sider:

A com­mon prob­lem is that the de­coy spread is not a spread at all, but more of a knot. When hun­ters set up in the dark, they of­ten end up with a tight, un­nat­u­ral look. Get out there and cre­ate some breath­ing room. Think about repo­si­tion­ing the de­coys in loose pairs that don’t sit in any spe­cific pat­tern.

Also, try adding goose de­coys. Ducks trust Canada geese, and a pair or trio of honkers in the spread will com­fort sus­pi­cious ducks.

If you have a spin­ning-wing de­coy out, turn it off. Spin­ners are great for get­ting ducks’ at­ten­tion, but they can some­times spook pres­sured ducks at closer ranges. If your spin­ner has a re­mote, try hit­ting the kill switch as soon as the ducks have seen your spread and start to work closer.

On the other hand, lack of mo­tion can be a deal-breaker for in­ter­ested ducks. A sim­ple jerk cord will cre­ate re­al­is­tic mo­tion on a wind­less day.

5 PROB­LEM: Pairs and sin­gles are avoid­ing you al­to­gether.

ANAL­Y­SIS: As morn­ing wears on, flock size shrinks un­til it seems that it’s just pairs and sin­gles look­ing for refuge. But these ducks have been get­ting shot at all morn­ing by hun­ters with out­size de­coy spreads.

FIX: It may seem coun­ter­in­tu­itive to re­move de­coys, but do­ing a par­tial pickup and leav­ing out only six or seven blocks can make enough of a dif­fer­ence to at­tract strag­gling dou­bles and sin­gles. Also, carry a cou­ple of full-body dekes and place them re­ally close to your blind, as part of the new set. Ducks stand­ing around on shore are ducks that feel safe.

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