Eliminate These Duck Hunting Mistakes and Go Commando This Season

Congratulations champ, you're truly a duck hunting legend. When it comes to smoking waterfowl, there are few better. You've known how to shoot ducks since you were 14 and there's rarely a day you miss your limit. Maybe it's even time to think about your own hunting show . . .

This does sound like you, right?!

duck dynasty ducks

Image: Public Domain, by Bagram Air Force Base, via Wikimedia

Let's be honest. What duck hunters amongst us couldn't benefit from some better habits? Ae we all know, there's a lot more to this sport than just knowing how to shoot ducks. It's easy to let your shooting skills dip or get lazy with your set, and then all that hard work (and lost sleep) are for nothing.

Ducks are unpredictable critters, and things rarely go exactly how we plan. But there are some common mistakes in duck hunting that can ruin your day whether you're a kid out on a youth hunt or a pro shooting your next television episode. From blinds to shotguns, to man's best friend, there's a lot to go wrong while you're out shooting wings. And as the old saying says, whatever can go wrong WILL go wrong.

Why Duck Hunting?

As some point, you've got to ask yourself, "why did I even learn how to shoot ducks in the first place?" There are a lot of correct answers here, but the most obvious one is that duck hunting is just damn fun. So now ask yourself if you really want to burn your hard earned time on the marshlands fumbling around making the same mistakes over and over again.

C'mon brother, you're too good for that!

But don't hang up your waders quite yet. There's hope!

Common Mistakes

Most of the common mistakes we pick up when learning how to shoot ducks are pretty simple and easy to avoid. So let's take it back to school and break down some of the most common blunders we duck hunters make. And while we're at it, let's look at some quick and simple fixes that will get you bagging more greenheads, woodies, and redlegs this season.

Honest mistakes

  • Your shooting is all out of whack
  • Problems with doggo
  • Blowing it with your decoys
  • When your blind isn't fooling anyone

Just plain lazy mistakes

  • Cheaping out on your scouting
  • Letting your shotgun go to hell
  • Bringing the wrong gear
  • Running late, again!

If It Sounds Like a Duck . . .

There's no way around it. Realistic duck calling is critical if you want to fill your bag. In fact, some hunters would say knowing how to call well is as important as knowing how to shoot ducks. Let's look at some of the most common bugaboos that plague many aspiring duck callers.

duck calling mistake infographic

Chart by author, all rights reserved

Knowing what not to do with duck calls is key. But you know what's also important? Actually knowing something about ducks calls. Let's take a hot minute and review the different types of calls most guys are toting into their blinds.

duck calls types infographic

Duck call image: CC BY-SA 2.0, by Roby, via Wikimedia, chart data by author, all rights reserved

Learning how to shoot ducks is tough, but learning how to call them really well can take a lifetime. Try calling a little less, calling at better times, and mixing up your calls and you'll have that faithful retriever splashing through the marsh far more often.

And while we're thinking of your trusty hunting partner, let's talk dogs.

Red Rover Red Rover

It's been said many bird hunters are more interested in the hunting dogs than, ya know, actual hunting.

To that, we have one simple response: DUH.

One of the best parts about learning how to shoot ducks is having a furry friend to jump in the drink and lug them back for you. And while hunting with a pup can be pure bliss, it can make also create some serious headaches. Let's look at some of the most common dog-related mistakes for duck hunters.

duck hunter with dog

Image: by klimkin, via Pixabay

Your Hunting Dog Isn't a Hunting Dog

You could theoretically take any mutt from the shelter out hunting, but we wouldn't recommend it. If you know anything about how to shoot ducks, then you probably know that retrievers, pointers, and spaniels are the pooches really made for the job. But you should also probably know some specific breeds that are best in the field.

Golden Retriever

Boykin Spaniel

boykin spaniel hunting ducks

Image: by Kdsphotos, via Pixabay

American Water Spaniel

German Short-Haired Pointer

german shorthair pointer

Image: by Mariana Saliola, via Pexels

Labrador Retriever

Chesapeake Bay Retriever

chesapeake bay retriever

Image: by mtorben, via Pixabay

English Springer Spaniel

english springer spaniel

Image: by onthegoTam, via Pixabay

Cocker Spaniel

cocker spaniel

Image: by Katrina_S, via Pixabay


newfoundland dog

Image: by Maximilliane, via Pixabay

Irish Water Spaniel

Curly Coated Retriever

If you're new to this game and thinking about getting a duck dog, remember that not all retrievers, spaniels, and pointers are created equal. Look specifically for a dog that is from a line of hunters, and they'll take to the water like a . . . well, a hunting dog.

Boom and Bust

The biggest and most important challenge when teaching your new puppy to hunt is getting them used to gunfire. If you don't start slowly and carefully, then your new buddy could be gun shy for life. And we can't have that. Start with .22 a long distance and slowly increase the volume. Practice a lot. They need it!

oregon duck hunter

1910 Oregon Duck Hunter (Image: Public Domain, by The Sunday Oregonian, via Wikimedia)

Help Your Pup Grow Swimmingly

Duck hunting dogs must be good swimmers. But whatever you do, don't force them to swim too early. Hucking your new puppy off the end of a dock can cause serious trauma and could render them all but useless on a duck hunt. Instead, find some warm, shallow water with a firm bottom and let them feel it out.

Take care of your pup, and she'll bring back every bird you knock out of the sky. That is, assuming you can actually hit anything . . .

Nice Shootin', Tex.

You can definitely get away without a dog when duck hunting. Do you know what you can't get away with? Not really knowing how to shoot ducks. One of the most common issues that duck hunters face is shooting technique. These are some classic things consider if you're facing accuracy issues.

archery art bullseye

Image: by Pixabay, via Pexels

Slow your roll

If you do a lot of shooting but not much killing, then you may be rushing your shots. Practice slowing down your mechanics and work through each step just like when you were learning how to shoot ducks.

Regulators! Mount up.

Getting a precise mount is key. If you're spraying pellets all over hell's half an acre then a good mount could be what's missing. It's nearly impossible to be super accurate unless your cheek and shoulder are making solid and complete contact with your shotgun.

Look, don't aim

Using open irons may work with turkeys and big game, but it won't with ducks. Don't try to aim at a bird on the wing with the end of your barrel. Instead, keep both eyes open, set a solid mount, and let your eyes tell your gun where to shoot. But also remember, you'll only know how to shoot ducks you've already found!

Scouting, Scouting, Scouting

We get it. Life gets busy, and it's easy to just get up early in the morning and give your old honey holes a try. But lack of proper scouting is one of the most common (and worst) mistakes facing many duck hunters. It's not just about scouting though. You also have to scout effectively. Let's learn how...

duck hunters

Image: by Andy Classen, via Pexels

Put `em to bed

Well done. You made it out for a scouting mission after work. I know that leftover pizza box and sixer back home are calling your name, but don't quit so soon. Just because those birds are in your favorite field now doesn't mean they'll be there in the morning. Wait until it's completely dark and ensure they're really hunkering down where you think they will.

There's Nothing Like Boots on the Ground

Putting birds to bed can be a deadly scouting approach, but don't just rely on your binos. If it looks like birds are on the move, then get out of your truck and actually cover some ground. You'll gain far more intel getting out into the field than you will watching from afar. Just make sure to be stealthy while you're at it!

girls hunting ducks

Image: Public Domain, by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, via Flickr

Don't get nade!

Many ducks have been hunted throughout their migration from north to south and suffice it—they're clever little suckers. Use extra caution not to get spotted when you're out scouting. It may only take one sloppy encounter to blow up a hunting spot for weeks.

Outta Sight in the Blind

Concealment is also key. You can have the most lethal hunting spot in four states, but you won't kill a thing if your blind looks terrible. Not sure how you're blowing it with your blind set up? Read on.

hunter taking pictures

Image: by atdsphoto, via Pixabay

Dude. Chill Out on the coffee.

Your blind may not be the issue at all. How much do you move around in your blind? Answer honestly. Are you the guy who is constantly messing with his gear and cracking open velcro pockets? If the answer is "yes" then you need to stop doing that. Right now.

Never turn a marshland into a mole hill

Take a close look around your favorite spot the next time you're out hunting. Anything seem out of place? If it's your blind, then you have got a big problem. Your blind should blend seamlessly in with your surroundings and work with its surroundings. Don't, for example, build a marshland kill-house near a hardwood pond. It just won't work.

Don't Get Deke'd!

Knowing how to set up your decoys correctly can be as important as knowing how to shoot ducks. These winged beasts a wily, and any wrong moves with your dekes could cost you. Think we're kidding? Check out some of these common mistakes.

duck decoy

Image: by GregMcMahan, via Pixabay

All that glimmers is not effective in duck hunting

New gear is fun, but that "new gear shine" won't help with your duck decoys. Make sure none of your dekes have any flash or sheen to them. It's a dead giveaway for live birds.

You're cleared for landing zones

Make sure to leave enough space so that incoming ducks perceive an effective landing zone as they make their way in. You obviously want to take a good shot before they land, but they may not even close in enough for a shot opportunity if they don't see a landing zone.

Tight ain't always right

Part of the reason you may not have a landing zone is that your dekes are packed in way too tight. It's rare that ducks will feel comfortable to come in on a group of birds that tightly clustered. So spread your dekes out a bit and let the live birds know your hunting spot a wonderful place to visit. They may even meet your trusty over-under. Which is trusty, right?

duck decoys

Image: Public Domain, by U.S. Marine Corp Lance Cpl. Natasha J. Combs, via Wikimedia

You've Got Gun Issues, Man

If you're surrounded in birds but just can't seem to limit out, then your gun may be the issue. Most of us get the old boilerplate lecture about gun maintenance when we're learning how to shoot ducks, but whoever paid attention to crazy uncle Larry anyway? Well, maybe you need a reminder on a few of the finer points.

Do Your Housekeeping

Not to be a nag, but when was the last time you cleaned your gun? We don't mean wiped it off with an oil rag. When was the last time you REALLY cleaned it? If you're blowing shots that even surprise you, then it may be time for a full tear down and deep cleaning of your old standby.

gunsmith duck hunting

Image: Public Domain, by U.S. Air Force/Robbin Cresswell, via JBSA

Semi-autos: Ssometimes they're only semi-awesome

Fancy gear is awesome. We love it too. But sometimes a simple break-action gun is the way to go. If it's bone-cracking cold, you'll have much better luck spelunking rounds into a break action gun than fumbling to refill a spring-loaded box magazine. There will also be fewer moving parts to freeze up on you. Embrace the simplicity; it's the little things, ya know? And speaking of little things . . .

The Devil's in the Details

There's a reason most hunting stories end with some form of the phrase "man I was so close!" Close encounters can be good fun, but limiting out is more fun. Lock up a few of these critical details, and we promise you'll be a better hunter for any species.

duck hunters

Image: CC BY-SA 3.0, by Aleutianking, via Wikimedia

Get tour *SS out of bed!

We know your bed is warm. But the sun is coming up whether you're in or not. Know what time legal shooting light starts in your unit and be in your blind at least 15 minutes before. No excuses!

What? You Chilly?

Once again, we know your bed is warm. You know what's not warm? Your duck blind. Plan for the weather and pack all of your gear the night before your hunt. With today's high-quality and affordable gear there's no reason to be freezin'. OK, sorry, that was terrible.

duck in snow

Image: by Alexas_Fotos, via Pixabay

You CAN Bag More Ducks This Season!

If there's one thing that all hunters can agree on its that this sport is tough! You put a lot of time, effort, and money into duck hunting. So why let a few simple mistakes keep you from having truly epic hunts? It's a game of inches, but with a few simple tweaks to your calling, dog handling, shooting, blind and deke placement, or gun maintenance you could be ready for a dream season this year.

Now get out there and fill that blind bag!

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