Smarter by the Day! by Chris McLeland It seems to us that one of the differences between your average waterfowl hunter and your Hard Core Hunter is handling highly educated birds. Regardless of where you call home, we will all have the opportunity to chase late season waterfowl this fall. We mentioned in the last article that your equipment can help make the difference between a successful hunt and going home empty handed. Hard core decoys are hands down one of the most realistic decoys on the market. When you’re tackling decoy shy and extremely wary birds remember that they have seen it all and heard it all, so the quality and realism of your decoys is important. For us, decoy placement is often the key ingredient in a late season hunt. So we would like to go through a couple of scenarios that we experienced over the last week, and how we managed out-think some of the most stubborn and difficult birds we have encountered. More often than not, the biggest mistake that hunters will make during the late season is to continue to do the same ole tactics that use each and every time they hit the marsh. We have found that to be successful in the late season, less is more. It’s a fact that spinning wing decoys have changed the way most hunters hunt waterfowl. It’s a rarity where we hunt to see hunters hitting the marsh without at least one. This can be one of simplest and easiest adjustments you can make to your late season spread is to pull the spinner. At this point in the season, educated waterfowl will begin to associate these decoys with 12 gauge shot guns. As I mentioned before, realism in your spread is key for late season success, however, do not mistake realism for quantity. We have found that cutting back on the amount of decoys in our spread can be extremely effective during this time. During the late season, birds tend to be extremely decoy shy, and are very stubborn to commit to finishing right in the hole. Decoy placement becomes key. During the late season, try placing your decoys where you don’t want the birds to be. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, this tactic can be extremely effective at putting birds on your game carrier. For those of you who have been following our blog, you know that the week of Veterans Day saw one of the largest migration events in recent years. Since that time, we really haven’t seen much in the way of favorable weather that would bring new birds into the mid-west. So what does that mean? Well, as I mentioned before, these suckers have seen it all and heard it all and have been shot at every day for the past 30 days. Conditions as of late have not been very favorable for success. Very cold and cloudy conditions had the birds holding tight. That all began to change on Monday, when the temperatures were once again above freezing and ice began to thaw. The forecast called for sunshine and 15 mph wind, so the conditions were right for success. Based on what we had been seeing over the past couple of days, we made the decision to go small and rely on the realism of our Hard Core deek’s to do the trick. We made the decision to leave the spinning wing decoy at the lodge and hit the marsh with 2 dozen Hard core quick rig mallards. When setting late season decoy spreads, there are several different methods that can be very effective. There are two techniques that we use most often. The first method is simply using a small, tightly packed group of decoys. In this set up, there really isn’t a “hole” to speak of. Late season birds become very wary of decoys deployed close to cover. This may be standing corn rows, or blinds. They are wise to the game. So to combat this stubborn trait of late season waterfowl, we like to put our cluster of Hard core decoys away from our hide, at roughly 25 yards. You may not think it would may much difference, but try it and you might be pleasantly surprised. The second technique that we use quite often is setting our decoys wide of the hide. Late season birds that are extremely decoy shy will tend land wide of the decoys. By setting the decoys where you don’t want birds to land, will force their hand to land right on the X. For this hunt, we set 2 dozen Hard core mallards in a tight condensed bunch at about 25 yards. After making sure we were hid as well as possible, the waiting game was on. The morning started out a little slow, that is of course until the wind picked up. Nothing will get the birds up and moving better than a good steady wind. Once the wind started to blow, we started seeing birds. The last aspect to being effective for late season waterfowl is the amount of calling required. As you can probably guess by now, we feel that during the late season, less calling is more effective. In a situation where most waterfowlers will over call, we rely more on the decoys and location to do the work. On this occasion, we only called when necessary. Hitting birds to get their attention, and working them on the turns, as we find softer is better. Typically, finishing birds falls more on the decoy setup than the calling. To say we were successful on this outing would be an understatement! With the wind at our backs, sun in their eyes, and realistic decoy spread the birds this day acted as if they just arrived from the Missouri Cateau!