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Filtering by Tag: field notes

field notes: shotgunning tips

Emily Degan

With mid-season approaching many duck hunters have, at this point, likely experienced both exciting and slower days in the field. Make the most of all of your hunts by bagging the ducks that do fly over with our top five shooting tips:

These are a few of our favorite things. 

These are a few of our favorite things. 

  1. Let the shotgun do the work – Your cheek should weld to the stock of your gun so that you’re able to comfortably look down the barrel and move together as one unit. Don’t lower your head to meet the gun; doing so impacts both your perception and range of motion.
     
  2. Rotate from your hips – Move your feet as little as possible for smooth set-up and shooting.
     
  3. Focus on the front of the target – This builds in a little cushion for error as you calculate lead.
     
  4. Swing through – Follow through is as essential in shooting as it is in golf; keep swinging your shotgun even after you pull the trigger to ensure the pattern lands where you intend. Use the English method of estimating lead by saying to yourself, “butt, belly, beak, boom!” as you swing through the bird. 
     
  5. Practice patience – Don’t rush to shoot just as soon as a bird comes in. Make all of your shots worthwhile by giving yourself an extra second or two to properly mount your gun and aim before pulling the trigger.

Happy hunting!
Emily  

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field notes: on early season decoy spreads

Emily Degan

Despite having brains roughly the size of ping pong balls, ducks are not stupid animals. They notice changes in colors, patterns, and calls, and they react accordingly. This is why when it comes to decoy spreads, many hunters fancy themselves artists. Spreads should reflect the natural behavior of ducks in specific waterways, temperatures, and times of the season. Ducks are dynamic, and decoy spreads should be too. So at the beginning of the season, how should you set up your decoy spread?

We recommend a J-shaped formation, like this one.

We recommend a J-shaped formation, like this one.

  1. Understand the biology – Early in the season, ducks are likely to feed near shorelines. This is because they need protein to grow their flight feathers for migration, found in nutrient rich food sources near the water’s edge. Later in the season, they’ll look for more carbohydrate rich food sources, like grain found in field settings.
     
  2. Introduce movement – Moving spreads are more lifelike than stationary ones, so many hunters make use of spinning decoys. Spinners are more effective early in the season because, with time, ducks become immune to their rhythmic motion. Don’t set up your spinner right in front of your blind though – doing so calls attention to it, blowing your camouflage. 
     
  3. Embrace color – Blue and green winged teal migrate earlier than other species, so including some colored decoys in your early season spread makes it look more realistic.
     
  4. Present a clear landing path – Ducks don’t like to fly over the heads of other ducks, so include a clear path for landing. And always have decoys face the current. 

Happy hunting!
Emily

 

10 tips to prepare for duck season

Emily Degan

In just a few short weeks, hunters across the southeast will happily skip sleep as they celebrate the opening of duck season. We thought we’d help them prepare by gently reminding them to do the following:  

Do you have your ducks in a row?

Do you have your ducks in a row?

  1. Secure your space – Communicate with landowner(s) and any other members of your group to avoid surprises on opening day.
     
  2. Check and double-check opening dates, times, limits, and licenses – Don’t rely on last year’s information; in many states, legal shooting begins later than normal on opening day.
     
  3. Test your transportation – Nothing would be more frustrating than starting the season with motor trouble.
     
  4. Scout – It’s likely that terrain has changed since last year; test your transport while scouting for areas that are holding water well or have a good food source. Take notes.
     
  5. Prep your pups – Take your dogs scouting, do a couple practice retrieves, and let them explore the area to ensure they’re comfortable and calm on opening day.
     
  6. Prep yourself – Get some exercise. This season will hopefully be filled with long and fruitful hunts: make sure you have the stamina to enjoy them to the fullest.
     
  7. Clean your gun and buy ammo – Don’t be the person that has to blame not having limited on gun trouble. And if you’re applying a choke, make sure you’re using a lubricant that won’t freeze and bind it to the barrel when temperatures drop.
     
  8. Plan your outfit – If you’ve been street-styling your Saint Hugh since teal season, you already know your gear is good to go. If not, pull last season’s duds out from the back of your closet, and make sure they still fit and work.
     
  9. Organize your decoys – Are your decoys still the tangled mess they were at the end of last season? Fix that.
     
  10. Practice your calls – Use a five-note descending call on opening day, then modify the tempo and timbre based on bird response.

Happy hunting!
Emily

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basic instinct (or lack thereof)

Emily Degan

Well... At least she looks the part. #WinnieWearsA ShootersVest

Well... At least she looks the part. #WinnieWearsAShootersVest

With dove season underway and quail and duck seasons looming, some hunters have already had the opportunity to test the off-season training of their gun dogs. Many more (like me) may be nervously wondering about the natural instincts of the family pet who hasn’t exactly received the recommended amount training.

So, we thought we’d take a closer look at where some of the most popular gun dogs are naturally pre-disposed to excel.

Boykin Spaniel – A strong prey drive and natural affinity for swimming, makes these great all around hunting dogs. But, these high energy dogs can lack the focus for the repetitive training of blind water retrieves. 

Expect: instinctive flushing
Train: blind retrieves

Brittany – Their manageable size and family friendly personality make Brittanys popular hunting dogs. Though they are usually work more closely than pointers, Brittanys are natural retrievers.

Expect: shorter range pointing and retrieving
Train: water retrieves

English Setter –  The popularity of English Setters among hunters and kennel clubs has led to a dichotomy in the breed: some are eager runners and instinctive pointers, others not so much.

Expect: long range points and the focus to hold them until you’re ready to shoot
Train: water retrieves

German Shorthaired Pointer – Bred in 19th century Germany to be the most versatile gun dog, it’s no surprise that hunters can typically get by minimally training these pups. Originally used for upland, waterfowl, and big game hunting, blood tracking has been de-emphasized in recent years especially among American breeds.

Expect: long range points
Train: big game tracking

Labrador retriever – With double coats for warmth and water repellency, labs are quite literally made for the water. Smart and eager to please though, they can be trained for all types of hunting.

Expect: great water retrieves
Train: pointing and flushing

Goldendoodle -  We’re biased here, but we couldn’t not mention goldendoodles. Even though poodles were bred water retrievers and golden retrievers were bred gun dogs, goldendoodles are often overlooked among hunters. Descended from two of the smartest breeds, they are highly trainable. However, it can be difficult to find goldendoodles that come from a line of hunters, so they typically require training. But with their smarts and focus, don’t expect training to take very long.

Happy hunting!
Emily