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How To/Pro-Tips

Decoy Safety

Picking up your decoys can be the most tiring and hazardous part of your duck hunt. We place a lot of decoys by tossing them out. However, to pick them up, you have to go to each and every one, pick it up, wrap the anchor cord and carry it back to a collection point. That's a lot of wading about or maneuvering the boat, leaning over, etc.
Don't get so focused on picking up the decoys or in such a hurry that you fail to be cautious. Watch where you're wading; you may have tossed a decoy over a deep spot.
Use a wading staff, preferably one with a small hook on it to reach out an pick up decoys in difficult places. Use that same staff, or a longer one with a hook, from the boat to avoid having to lean over the gunnel. Some boat hunters cut a small notch in a boat paddle to help them snag decoy lines.

Get a Clean Start

You cleaned your duck gun at the end of last season didn't you? No? Shame on you. For this waterfowling season, you need to do a maintenance check on your duck gun. Duck hunting is often a dirty business and is tough on guns. If you start out with a cruddy gun, you can almost count on malfunctions, usually at critical moments, while shooting.

With modern ammo, bore corrosion is seldom a problem. It's everywhere else that gets gunked up -- particularly the action. Strip it down and clean it out. Use degreasing agents to soften up gummy deposits. Dig into tight spots with an old toothbrush and pipe cleaners. I sometimes use an air-pressure hose to really blow things out.

Autoloaders are quite reliable when properly maintained but are particularly sensitive to fouling in their mechanism. It's not the autoloader's fault if it quits autoloading because its critical components are filthy.

When the gun is clean, lightly lubricate it and you're ready to go.

Rover's Retrieving Skills

The retrieving breeds are among the most biddable and easiest to train of all dogs. There are hardheads and knotheads, but generally retrievers want to please you, if they can figure out what pleases you.
Two words should guide all dog training: consistency and repetition. Always use the same command, the same signal and the same body posture when training. Repetition means frequent but not overly long training sessions. Consistency also means similar praise for good work and similar results for poor performance.
With headstrong dogs, never let them think that they can get the upper hand. You are the boss all the time. Just as with teenagers, they will test you often. Consistency, repetition and firmness -- not brutality -- are the answers.
In hot weather, a retriever's enthusiasm can cause him to go hard for too long. You're in charge of this too. Train in the early morning, keep cool water available and keep sessions short in hot weather.

Binoculars for the Ducks

As a big-game hunter, I use binoculars a lot. However, I don't leave my binoculars at home when I trade a deer stand for a duck blind.
For the waterfowler, binoculars are invaluable for scouting locations and observing distant duck activity. You can identify the species and often what they are feeding on or why they seem to prefer a certain area from long distance with a good pair of binoculars.
Even in the blind, binoculars are very handy for checking out distant flight lines and seeing what is coming your way from a long way off. They are also good for spotting and marking a long-fall cripple for recovery.
For waterfowling, I prefer the higher magnifications of 8x or 10x with large enough objective lenses to be bright in low light. I also prefer the mid-sized models for a combination of comfortable use and ease of storage. Given the nature of waterfowling, your binoculars must be waterproof and weatherproof.

Clean Up Your Calls

Just as you should clean your shotgun regularly, you should clean your duck calls. The reed must be free to vibrate as the manufacturer intended for the best and most realistic calls. The inside of a duck call is a great place for dirt, debris and pocket lint to accumulate. This foreign material is responsible for the call "sticking" or failing to produce the right sounds at the right moments.
Use a crisp, new dollar bill. Pull the call apart and hold the end-piece with the reed, wedge or cork in your left hand. Slide the bill under the reed (or reeds) and draw it through. This will dislodge any unwanted material and dry the call out. The dollar bill won't tear like paper towels, napkins and tissue paper.
Some recommend dental floss, but that's no fun. As you get better and more fond of your call, you may want to start using $5 or $10 dollar bills. Me? I use nothing but $100 bills.

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