It’s that time of year again! Ducks by the thousands are pouring into nearly every region of the province as the fall waterfowl migration gets into full swing! Just in time for the fall festivities is this segment of “HuntFishMB Trip Tips”, Where Paul Conchatre of Birdtail Waterfowl maps out his top 5 duck hunting tips!
Recently, I had the pleasure of spending a few days at Birdtail Waterfowl. Over these days of hunting with owner Paul Conchatre. We had a handful of phenomenal duck hunts. On these hunts, Paul’s wealth of knowledge in the world of waterfowl was clearly apparent. Every step of the way from scouting to setting up to the shooting is methodically planned out. And let me tell you… The results speak for themselves. Without further ado, below are the top 5 duck hunting tips as I learned from Paul over my action-packed trip with Birdtail Waterfowl.
Duck Hunting Tips #1: Plan Your Route
The first tip I learned from Paul was before the first hunt even began. This was “Plan Your Route”. What this means is when you are driving into the fields, don’t just drive right across them. Start by driving the perimeter of the field as much as possible. Once you are nearing the location you have chosen to hunt. Drive directly towards this location, and drive in the same direction as the rows from the harvest. If you have multiple trucks heading into your setup, be sure to travel in these same tracks as well. All this will help hide your truck tracks across the field, and give as little for the birds to pick out on their final approach as possible.
Duck Hunting Tips #2: Side Shooting on Mallards
The next tip Paul taught me on this trip was the importance of setting up to side shoot the mallards. Traditionally I have always set up in a way to have the wind at my back, decoy spread upfront, and a pocket right up the middle for the birds to land. Although this strategy can be effective, Paul showed me this side shooting method and I immediately understood why it’s so effective.
So instead of having the decoy spread set up in a way that the wind is at your back and the birds are going to land straight on, right in front of you. This method has the hunters shooting perpendicular to the wind. The benefit of setting up this way is related to the birds and what they are looking at as they lock into the setup. Although having the birds come straight into the spread up the middle provides an easier shooting opportunity. Having them coming straight on also has the birds staring directly at your location increasing their odds of catching something out of place and flaring just out of range.
Now, setting up perpendicular to the wind, (For example, instead of wind blowing on your back, it is blowing on your left cheek) and positioned on the side of the decoy spread, will have the birds locked in dropping into the middle spread completely unaware of your position just out of eyesight.
Now without a doubt, side shooting a duck is more difficult than shooting them straight on. However, If less flocks are flaring at your set up, its not hard to see why this tactic has proven to be super effective at Birdtail.
Duck Hunting Tips #3: Don’t Shoot Roost Water
This tip 100% taught me something about waterfowl behavior. Paul stated, “We don’t shoot the roost water” which made sense. But then he continued to explain how most birds have roost water and daytime water. He continued by saying that if you know your population of birds well enough. You’ll observe that they will go to certain bodies of water to roost and certain bodies during the day and don’t typically mix them.
He furthered by explaining that If you hunt one of the daytime waters. They will just go to different daytime water nearby the next day because they typically have multiple options. However, if you hunt the roost water. They might not have secondary roost water and it’s possible that the entire population on that water might just hop up and migrate. “I’ve seen it where hunters will shoot roost water. Then the birds pick up and just completely migrate out of the area for good.” Paul said. I found this tip really fascinating and learned a lot about how to approach a water hunt in the future.
Duck Hunting Tips #4: Cluster Spread Style
This tip was another one where paul genuinely taught me something about ducks and duck behavior. He stressed the importance of a cluster style of decoy spread. “Often you’ll see hunters setup their duck spread similar to a goose spread, this is a no” Paul said confidently. If you spend the time to observe and study ducks and geese in the field. You’ll learn that they function differently. “You’ll rarely see ducks 10 feet apart in a field. Especially if they are feeding” Paul said. He explained that when ducks are feeding in a field. They are typically shoulder to shoulder, often aggressive, nipping at each other and running around trying to find the best feed. Paul also explained that this aggression and nipping at each other is why a lot of the feathers are left in the field.
So, what does this syle of decoy spread look like? Paul explained exactly what you should do. “You make clusters of 6-8 duck decoys in little pods all over the place around where you want them to land and make sure they are tight pods. Then run goose decoys on the outside of your spread for visibility. Even if they are way out of shooting range. Trust me, they are just for visibility and to keep the bird’s eyes busy. Even if it feels like your duck clusters are lost in your spread a bit that’s ok. The ducks will see them. This way, your ducks look natural and there’s way more for birds to look at which keeps them busy.”. I’ve seen Paul run this decoy style before and I can assure you that it works.
Duck Hunting Tips #5: Don’t Get Greedy
How often do you have a situation where there is a great flock of let’s say 15 ducks locked in. But a few hundred ducks behind them are looking like they are gonna present a shot next? Do you pass that up and wait for the bigger flock? or do you take to shots at the smaller flock? Paul’s answer is straight and simple, you shoot the 15.
Obviously, it depends on your group size, but in general, you want to harvest the highest percentage of flocks possible. There are a few reasons for this. First, when you have hundreds of birds around you. It’s easy to get flustered and people often struggle to pick a bird and focus on a precise shot. Next, is that if you have 4 shooters and there are 200 birds, you aren’t harvesting any more birds than if there were 25 birds and meanwhile you’re educating way more birds on what a spread looks like, what hunters look like, what gunshots sound like, etc.
“Shooting at flocks of hundreds when you could have shot at 15 is a great way to ruin a population”. Paul said. It may be fun to have a hurricane of birds around you. But it’s not great for the huntable population in your area, and it’s just not efficient. Take the opportunities you get, and in turn, your hunt and future hunts will be more successful.
I hope that through my conversations with Paul that these tips were useful. He sure schooled me on some things and I learned a lot about ducks. How they function, and how to hunt them. If you ever have the chance, I highly recommend a hunt at Birdtail Waterfowl.
For more duck hunting tips and experiences, visit our Waterfowl Hunting page.
To learn more about waterfowl hunting at Birdtail Waterfowl, Visit their website here
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Written by: Marcel Laferriere