Waterfowl Decoys: Tips and Tricks

In Part Three we talked about Shallow vs Open water.

Dry Fields

Most hunters only hunt water sets and make a huge mistake in doing so. Shell and Full Body decoys are great in a variety of situations you may find waterfowl in including dry field feeding, ice conditions, shallow shorelines, riverbanks and islands or even on logs. Hardcore Full Body Mallards and Bigfoot Full Body Geese are just a couple examples of easy to use and adaptable full body decoys. While bulky they are fairly lightweight and give another dimension to fooling birds, feet down, into the decoys.


Motion Decoys

Motion Decoys are a subset of decoys all their own and there are many on the market from the tried and true Jerk Rig to the battery operated Mojo family of motion decoys. Regardless of what product or method you use, motion is essential in your decoy spread. Real ducks move and are active and a lack of motion on a calm day is a conspicuous giveaway to mature birds. Birds responses to the various methods will vary day to day but definitely have a couple methods in your bag of tricks.


Set Up

Once you have the necessary tools for the areas you hunt its all about setting them up in a way that makes sense. If you have scouted and seen birds in an area you can hunt its best to put them as close to the same as you saw them as you can. If not then try to set up with the sun at your back and the wind at your back or coming from the side. This will allow birds to land into the wind but not get a good look at the decoys because of sun in their face. Also leave a large opening for the birds to set down in since even the best spread won’t finish ducks if your decoys look like Nashville intertstates at rush hour. Spacing between decoys can come into play but it can also be highly variable from day to day and stage in the season.


Great Outlook For Waterfowl Season

Ducks flying

Coming off a great brooding year, with plenty of water in most of our flyway areas,  it is shaping up to be another great year for waterfowl in the Mid-West states.  The only thing that remains to be seen is the cold or hard freeze that brings down the birds. But I am getting a number of sightings of the Wooly Caterpillar is going to bring us another year of weather that moves birds.

 Make sure that you look over your decoys to make sure that they are in good shape and your lines and weights are in good order. This might be the year that you want to add more color, size or movement to your spread. Stop in and check out the decoy selection.

Redhead duck decoy

Avian-X and Banded Blocks have some great NEW decoys at several different price points to please any level of hunter. Be sure to also check out the new motorized decoys by Lucky Duck and Mojo, and of course our great array of our own RedHead brand decoys and accessories. While you are here pick up a new RedHead Decoy Bag or some RedHead decoy line.

Remember, you want to make sure you have them ready before they show up.  


Product Spotlight - Last Minute Dove Gear!

Dove season starts Monday, September 1, in Iowa. Here are a couple of last minute dove hunting items our Hunting Manager Shaun Bequeaith recommends:

RedHead Dove StoolRedHead Dove Stool

The RedHead Dove Stool in RealTree Xtra gives you the best seat in the sunflower field! Easy to carry and has a built-in, zippered compartment under the seat. Perfect for ammo and other important gear...like jerky, sun protection, and water...while you rest your legs and wait for the doves to come in! Made of heavy duty, water resistance polyester fabric, and has a built in carrying strap for easy transport. Folds up nicely too for storage!


CamoFX Face PaintCamoFX Face Paint System

Doves have extremely good eye sight. Put on your best game face, so they don't spot you! Easy to apply, this three-color system was designed by hunters and has been field tested in a variety of hunting situations. It allows you to put the high-def paint on evenly, quickly, and it doesn't crack, dry up, run or smear.


RedHead Rubber Dove Decoy 4-packMake sure to check your decoys...if you need new ones, the MOJO Outdoors VooDoo Dove Decoy runs on batteries, so the wings are always moving...NOT just when there is a breeze. Plus, the new RedHead Rubber Dove Decoy 4-pack provides a realistic option for perched doves. The spring clips on the bottom allow you to clip them to tree branches and fences, providing a realistic atmosphere for your hunt.


Like us @  Bass Pro Shops Altoona
Tweet us @bassproaltoona
Pin us @ pinterest.com/bpsaltoona
View us @ 




Dove Season by Chris Krammes


With days now shorter and nights getting cooler I can’t help but feel a new hunting season around the corner. Yes, dove season is only a couple weeks away! It’s time to dust off our shotguns and get in some much needed practice before opening day! What better way to kick off a new hunting season than with a September dove hunt!

Traditionally our group meets up the weekend before, either at our local sporting clays range or on our farm to shoot skeet. It’s a great way to be prepared before taking to the field. If you’re not able to shoot at home there are plenty of clubs around the area that will allow nonmembers the opportunity to sharpen their shooting skills.

After digging all of my gear out it was clear that it was time to restock! Realizing time was running out I headed for our local Bass Pro Shops. While at the Bass Pro Shops in Ashland we found everything and more that we could possibly need for the upcoming season. Bass Pro Shops has a wide selection of dove hunting necessities from shot shells, clothing, skeet throwers and clay targets. Don’t forget ear and eye protection! I was so consumed by all there was to choose from I almost forgot to pick up a couple more MOJO dove decoys.

Now I'm completely stocked up and you’ll find me on the range this weekend!

See you out there!

Chris Krammes



Hunting Season is Upon Us

Now that the long hot summer months are almost coming to an end, the beginning of the hunting season is upon us. And what better way to kick off your season than dove season.

It has been a long time coming, especially for us migratory bird hunters. With this year proving to be a wetter year, forecasts show a better than average migration in store.  More birds mean better odds of shooting your limit.  That bodes well for those of us who enjoy dove fresh off the grill.  I want to mention a few products and strategic moves that may allow for a more successful season. First and foremost we need hunting licenses, but don’t forget to buy your migratory bird stamp. Choosing a shotgun comes down to money and personal preference. Once you have decided on a shotgun we are going to need some shells. 7 ½ shot or 8 shot is what is usually used while hunting dove.  Thorough practice is highly recommended.  I encourage you to pick up some Winchester AA Tracker shotshells.  This new ammo has a black wad that tracks your shot.  If you miss high, low, left, or right you will know and this allows you to correct your aiming point and fix any mistakes you may have made.  These shells have proven to be great teachers and are just what some of us need to hone in our wing shooting skills before opening day. 

Finally let’s go hunting. Best times to hunt are going to be just after sunrise or late afternoon, that’s when doves are most active, eating, and looking for water.  Make sure you are not in plain view, because doves have amazing eyesight and will see you before you see them. Choose a tree next to a fence line or around water.  Enhance that area you have chosen with a few still dove decoys and one or two deco Mojo VooDoo Decoys.  The spinning wings of the mojo brings a more constant flight into your setup.  Before I used mojo dove decoys I would shoot my fair share of doves. However, once I began using these in my setup the groups of dove increased and the limit became more attainable each hunt.  Now that we are all well informed hope everyone has a very good season. And remember all your necessities you will need for a successful hunt can be found at your local Bass Pro Shops.


Teal Season is Right Around the Corner!


                                                                                          -photo from Ducks Unlimited 

By: Associate Landon

September for many is the official start of the fall hunting season. Dove season begins on the 1st of the month and Archery season begins on the 15th, but for many avid waterfowl hunters the most important date in 2013 is September 7th, which signals the beginning of the Missouri early teal season.

Blue-winged teal are the second most numerous duck in North America, finishing second only to the mallard.  Teal are typically the first waterfowl to begin migration in the fall, as well as the first to head back north in the spring. The blue-winged teal produces nearly 75% of the annual harvest during the September early teal season, but green-winged teal and cinnamon teal are legal as well.

Many waterfowl hunters look forward to teal season each year because it offers an excellent opportunity to fine tune those wing shooting skills, get those bird dogs on point and allows them to relieve some of that duck depression we all experience when the regular waterfowl season ends.

The 2013 Missouri early teal season will run from Sept. 7th-Sept. 22nd, which totals 16 days. The bag limit for 2013 has been raised to a 6 bird limit up from the 2012 season of only 4 birds. Possession limits were also raised for the 2013 early teal season to 18 total birds, which is up from 12 total birds in 2012. Shooting hours run from sunrise to sunset to allow hunters plenty of light to fully identify their target. If you would like to hunt teal in Missouri you must obtain a Missouri small game permit, Missouri Migratory bird permit, as well as the Federal Duck stamp, all of which are available through the Missouri Department of Conservation, as well as at your local Bass Pro Shops.

The essentials for hunting teal are very minimal and should include waders, a decent shotgun, steel shot, and about a dozen decoys or so (subject to personal preference).  There are many items that you could consider adding to your bag of tricks to increase your chances for harvest. Try some of these items for an enhanced edge this season:

Redhead® Floating Blue-winged Teal Decoys (Also available in Green-winged Teal) http://www.basspro.com/RedHead-Floating-Bluewing-Teal-Duck-Decoys/product/103121/

These super lifelike decoys will have teal unable to resist landing in your spread!  For a quick, convenient set up check out the Redhead® No-Hassle Decoy Rigging Anchor System http://www.basspro.com/RedHead-NoHassle-Decoy-Rigging-Anchor-System/product/421912061/


SHOT Show 2013 Industry Outlook

As anyone who has been near a gun counter in the past 2 months can attest, the gun business is BOOMING.  My recent trip to Las Vegas to attend the annual Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show (SHOT Show) further confirmed a thriving industry.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the SHOT Show, here is the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s (NSSF) description of it:  “NSSF's annual SHOT Show (Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade Show) is the largest and most comprehensive trade show for all professionals involved with the shooting sports, hunting and law enforcement industries. It is the world's premier exposition of combined firearms, ammunition, law enforcement, cutlery, outdoor apparel, optics and related products and services.”

In layman’s terms, the SHOT Show is a trade show held annually in the first few weeks of January, where manufacturers debut their product lines for the upcoming year.  It is not a public event; one must be connected to the industry in one way shape or form to be allowed to attend.  The majority of manufacturers will wait until SHOT Show (or at least the weeks preceding it) to debut any new products they may be releasing for the upcoming year, so every year it creates a very exciting time in the industry.

That being said, there were very few manufacturers that debuted completely new products, instead most opted to re-configure existing product lines.  However, there were a few new products on the market that will spark some interest in the industry.  Remington debuted its new Model 783 rifle.  The 783 will fall into the line of price point guns and should compete with the Ruger American and T/C Venture with a starting MSRP of $451.  It will be originally debuted in 4 calibers (.308, .270, .30-06 and 7mm Rem Mag) and will come as a gun only (possible scope package options for the future).  Remington also released a VersaMax Sportsman, which unlike its predecessor, will not come in a hard case, will only come with 1 choke (previously 5), will not have Hogue Overmolded Grips, will not have adjustments for Drop/Cast or Length of Pull, and will have a standard ivory front bead (previously Hi-Viz).  It will also sport an MSRP of $1025 (previously $1399) and still offer all the benefits of the VersaMax, just without any extras.  The standard VersaMax will still be available as well.

Winchester and Savage teamed up this year to debut a new rimfire caliber, the .17 Winchester Super Magnum.  This hot new caliber is said to deliver a 20 grain bullet at 3000 fps, and will boast similar performance at 200 yards that a .17 HMR would deliver at 50 yards.  Savage has developed an entirely new gun line to host this new cartridge with their new B.MAG, which has several features previously found only in centerfire guns, giving you centerfire performance out of a smaller package.  Savage added an 8 round rotary magazine into this new line-up, something not seen from them before, and as always their new product also features their famous Accu-Trigger.  MSRP on this gun is starting at $349.

                As I mentioned previously, there were also a few re-configurations in the industry.  Taurus has revamped their PT  111/140 (9 mm/.40 S&W) Millennium series with the new G2 series, similar to what we previously saw with their 24/7 series, just adding better ergonomics on their tried and true series.  

Springfield Armory announced that they will now be offering their popular XDs in a 9mm configuration as well.

Ruger also released a few different configurations of previous models.  There will now be an LC380 (LC9 in a .380 caliber), an SR45 (similar to the SR9 or SR40), a commander sized (4.25”) SR1911 and an LCR .22 Magnum.  Ruger also added new calibers to their American series rifle (.22-250 and 7mm-08) as well added compact models in both .243 and 7mm-08.

Usually, one can detect a certain theme that the industry is following, this year that was not the case.  Last year, it seemed every manufacturer was offering some sort of zombie gadget.  The zombie craze, while fun, seems to have run its course and although there are still a few companies offering zombie gear, for the most part I think we have successfully thwarted any potential zombie attack.  As one could predict, Modern Sporting Rifles and accessories for them are still the hottest ticket in town, and there is really no telling how the market will respond to the demand.  One thing I was able to note, was an increased emphasis (at least for me) on predator and waterfowl hunting.  Don’t get me wrong, deer hunting is as popular as ever, but it seemed to me that more people are looking for ways to extend their seasons, and the market is responding with more products to get people out in the field longer.  Mojo Outdoors even saw fit to add a Spinning Wing Crow decoy and a Spinning Wing Pigeon decoy, both sports which are gaining much favor among shotgunners not wanting to hang up their guns until next September.

Manufacturers are back up and running following their holiday shutdowns, so we should begin to see some of these new products hitting the market any time.  Overall, it looks to be another exciting year in the hunting industry!


Waterfowl Hunting - Passing on a Passion

Early duck season starts Saturday, September 22, in Iowa.  A new zone has been added and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates a fall duck flight at 48 million...the highest since they began surveying in the 1950's.

For one Bass Pro Shops Associate, waterfowl hunting is the fleeting chance to experience one of the greatest spectacles of nature. Migration.

Steve Staerk has been a waterfowl hunter for 26 years, starting when he was 12.  He hunts everything, but waterfowl is his biggest concentration.

"Seeing flocks flying in the distance for migration is a very cool experience. You're at peace with nature... the actual kill is secondary. It only happens certain times of the year that you get to witness nature’s natural movements through migration." 

Sataerk and daughterThe first time Staerk went hunting was as a young boy with his older brothers and he didn't even have a gun.

"It captured my imagination...I developed more of a passion for it without my gun than my brothers who were the actual hunters.  It never wore off and I will probably do it until my legs fall off."

Staerk says his tactics have changed as he gets older, and he has evolved from hunting in marshes to more field hunting.

"There are good points and bad points to both field and marsh hunting. If I put on waders now and hunted the way I used to when I was younger, then I's probably fall over, gasping for air."

Staerk says he uses more decoys hunting in the fields, so there may be more expense because of the variety of decoys needed. He says it doesn’t matter what he's hunting...he may set up to target geese, but brings along a Mojo just in case. 

"One Mojo duck in a flock of geese and I've had 200 trying to land."Staerk and Son

Staerk has already started the waterfowl hunting tradition with his kids...his 4-year-old son went with him last year for the first time.

"He was up before I was, getting camo on, and he made sure I got up. We went to the neighbors and set up decoys on his farm pond."

Staerk's preferences in regard to waterfowl hunting necessities? 

  1. Decoys – Big Foots – feeders, resters and sentries.
  2. Hevi-Metal ammo – Very effective on geese. Staerk says it adds a good15 yards of effective shooting range…he was really surprised by the results the first time he used it.
  3. Good concealment – whether a boat, layout blinds or digging in, you need GOOD concealment.

But Staerk adds there are some personal "must haves" that he likes to suggest:

  1. Goretex – I wish I would have had Goretex when I was younger.  Especially later in the season to help keep you dry and warm.
  2. Invest in a really good pair of waders or Goretex or Thinsulate-type boots, depending on where you’re hunting. Again, comfort is key.
  3. Calls – Everyone has their own type they like…the high end calls may cost a bit more, but it’s worth the investment and much more realistic. 
  4. Nourishment - don't forget water and easy snacks...goose jerky!

 For more information on waterfowl hunting seasons and regulations in Iowa, visit http://www.iowadnr.gov/Portals/idnr/uploads/Hunting/migratoryregs.pdf.

  Like Us on Facebook

Like us on Facebook!


Missouri Teal

Blue-winged teal are second only to mallards as the most numerous duck in North America. They are among the first ducks to migrate in the fall and the latest to head back north in the spring. Blue-wings comprise nearly 75 percent of the Missouri teal harvest each year. However, green-winged teal and cinnamon teal are also legal during the September teal season.

Many waterfowl hunters anticipate teal season year round. It signals the beginning of the duck migration and offers them an opportunity to tune up their bird dogs as well as their wing shooting. Teal can offer quite the challenging shot with their small size, ever-changing flock structures, acrobatic turns, and speedy landings and springy vertical take-offs.  

Missouri’s early teal season begins on Saturday, September 8, 2012 and runs for 16 days. The daily combined bag limit for all three species of teal for the year is 4, setting the possession limit at 8. Hunting hours run from sunrise to sunset, to allow hunters enough light to properly identify their quarry. In order to hunt blue wing teal hunters must hold a small game license, migratory bird permit, and a Federal duck stamp. All of these licenses can be purchased through the Missouri Department of Conservation at your local Bass Pro.

The necessities for teal hunting are quite minimal, requiring only a decent shotgun, some steel shot, and a dozen or so decoys. There are many items you can add to your bag to increase your chances though. Try some of these items for an additional edge this season:


If you need more information on teal hunting in Missouri you can find the migratory bird digest behind the customer service counter at Bass Pro or online from the Missouri Department of Conservation.



Outdoor Essentials - Are you Ready for Doves?

Dove season opens September 1 through November 9.  Hunting Manager Shaun Bequeaith has these Here are your essentials for getting ready to get the birds.

  •  Decoys - The MOJO Wind Dove relies on the wind, so if it's windy, they're great! The MOJO VooDoomotorized VooDoo Dove Decoy is larger and more realistic, in a landing position, and the wings are now magnetically attached.
  • Grab a dove stool or a new Big Game Dove Bucket for sitting AND storage.Dove Bucket
  • Lead or steel? Know what shot to use for where you're hunting -7 1/2 and 8 are good. There are a number of wildlife management areas that require nontoxic shot.
  • Scout for gravel roads, power lines, and fields. Power lines for roosting; fields for food, such as sunflower, recently mown native grass areas or hayfields with lots of bare areas and open ground, and harvested or low crops with bare soil along the edges. After they eat, they'll often head to gravel, then back for more food or to roost. Also, look for water areas nearby with bare shoreline. 

CamoWhat to wear?  We're carrying a new Browning Dove Hunting Vest.  With the continued warm temperatures, there is great lightweight camo in the way of RedHead Cover Suits, the Stalker Lite II Jersey, (even on sale right now!), and the Silent Hide.

In Iowa, visit http://www.iowadnr.gov/Hunting/PlacestoHuntShoot/WildlifeManagementAreas.aspx for more information on public wildlife management areas in Iowa (by county).  For information outside of Iowa, check with your state or local conservation agencies.


Dove Season

Did you know that the dove is one of the most abundant and widespread birds in North America? This time of year you can see doves all over Mid-Missouri. The most commonly seen is the mourning dove, sometimes called the turtle or rain dove. Just like ducks and geese, the dove is a migratory bird, meaning it flies south to warmer weather for the winter. At the first warning of cold weather these birds can fly as fast as 55 mph to find a more agreeable climate. Doves like to eat seeds and grains, including: corn, sunflower seeds, wheat, pigweed, crotons, ragweed, foxtails, and panic grasses. They prefer to live in areas with standing water, trees or telephone lines for safety, and nearby gravel beds. Why would they like gravel beds you ask? Doves don’t have a stomach that works the way yours does, so they have to eat tiny pebbles to help grind their food in an organ called the gizzard before it can go to their stomach to be digested. Next time your outside, keep an eye out for these amazing little birds.
Mourning Dove

It is one of the most abundant and widespread of all North American birds. It is also the leading game bird, with more than 20 million birds (up to 70 million in some years) shot annually in the U.S., both for sport and for meat. Its ability to sustain its population under such pressure stems from its prolific breeding: in warm areas, one pair may raise up to six broods a year. Dove Season in Missouri opens on September 1, 2012. Other than the mourning dove there are two other types of dove you can harvest; the white-winged dove and the Eurasian collared dove. For 2012 the combined daily bag limit is 15, with a combined possession limit of 30.

In order to hunt dove you must possess a small game license ($10.00) and a migratory bird permit ($6.00). These can be purchased from the Missouri Department of Conservation at any Bass Pro Shops location.

New to dove hunting? All you need is a working shotgun, some small game loads, and a bucket to get started. Want to step up your game? Try these items to increase your chance of success.

• Doves can’t help but come take a look at the MoJo VooDoo Dove decoy; its fast spinning wings simulate a real bird in flight.

• Stay refreshed, alert, and supplied for the hunt with the RedHead Dove Stool.

• Find yourself missing shots you think you should have hit? Try Winchester® Super Dove, Dove and Clay Load Shotshells. An ideal balance of powder charge and shot payload, Super Dove shells deliver high velocities up to 1350 fps to outpace fast-flying game birds. The one-piece, hinged wad helps deliver tight, consistent patterns and reduced recoil.

Still need more information on Missouri doves and dove hunting? Pick up a copy of the Migratory Bird Digest at the Customer Service counter in Bass Pro Shops, Columbia, MO or find it online.

Bass Pro Shops--Columbia, MO 


Preamble to Fall

   August is an exciting month for anyone who enjoys time in the woods or on the water.  The days are just a little shorter and it is actually trying to cool down a bit compared to our record summer temperatures.  Many of us can find ourselves in a slump by August because of the hot temperatures, lackluster fishing, and the fact that we have been out of a hunting season since turkey season passed on in May.  Fortunately, help is on the way!  As a matter of fact, some of the most enjoyable hunting seasons are right around the corner.  

   Squirrel season is just days away in many areas.  In fact it starts Wednesday August 15th here in Indiana.  Last year was tough in many areas because our trees had an off year on mast production.  White oak acorns were nearly non-existent and I hunted very few areas with any amount of hickory nuts as well.  Walnuts, red oaks, and pine trees were the key.  This year has an opportunity to be different, though.  The white oaks are back and the hickories are producing well despite the drought that has strangled our landscape all summer.  Squirrels and hunters alike are happier when these trees are producing.  Maple trees seem to be what the squirrels are favoring at the moment, but it will not be long at all until they spread out into some of the better mast trees.

   Before going to the woods after some squirrels, I highly recommend treating your clothing in Sawyers Permethrin.  Make sure to treat your socks, shoes, pants, shirts, hats and any other article of clothing you may wear.  This tick repellent is by far the best that I have ever used and I use it anytime I am in the woods between March and October.  Turkey ticks are everywhere and hard to get off you.  Avoid stepping on or in rotting wood as this is where they really like to hang out.  Another item that I love to carry with me to the woods during this warmer time of year is a hydration pack.  The RedHead® Wellspring Hydration Pac is the one that I use but there is a lot of other hydration pack options as well.  Not only does this pack keep me hydrated during the long walks, but it also cools me down since it sits right on your back.  It adds very little weight to your person and holds up to two liters of water!  Don't forget to treat the outside of your pack with permethrin too.   

   Dove season is less than a month away as well.  This is a great time to introduce new people to hunting.  It is generally nice outside at the beginning of September.  Additionally, you are almost guaranteed some action if you are near a cut field, sunflowers, water, or gravel.  Socializing is perfectly acceptable and being stealthy isn't necessarily a requirement.  Hitting the doves is the hardest part, but luckily there is a way to make this task more feasible, even for a novice shooter.  In one of my past blogs, I explained the importance of movement in your waterfowl decoy spread.  It just so happens that Mojo Voodoo Dove Decoythis carries over to dove hunting as well.  Doves are actually fooled by decoy movement even more than ducks and geese.  Mojo has been offering a MOJO Dove for several years now and the results speak for themselves.  I have witnessed bird after bird actually try to land on this decoy.  They slow down and turn directly for the decoy, many times they will land next to it if they are not shot at.  You can use the decoy placement to your advantage by positioning yourself to get a head on shot when they look hard at the decoy.  The main factors to consider is which way the doves are coming from, and determine if they can see your decoy from that direction.  If they see it, they will usually come.  One thing to keep in mind is the fact that this is a low angle shot and you should make very certain there are not hunters sitting beyond your decoy and watch for the dog too if you use one.

   If you cannot get the fish to bite, have an itchy trigger finger, or just enjoy spending time afield like I do, get out and try some squirrel and dove hunting.  There is nothing like being a part of watching the foggy, dead-still woods come to life before your eyes.

Good Luck!

Brian Eickholtz

Bass Pro Shops
Clarksville, IN


Get your Duck Season in Motion

The cold air chills your bones as you sit motionless waiting for the sound of whistling wings or the sight of silhouettes approaching your decoy spread.  Your dog shakes uncontrollably, not from the cold, but from the anticipation of what he has seen many times before.  His eyes wonder and suddenly he flinches at the sight of a cardinal flying into the brush beside your blind.  Just when you lose hope that first light is going to be a bust, the soft sound of down hitting the water tickles your ears.  Your dog sees everything before you do and almost breaks, but restrains himself long enough for you to swing on a nice pair of mallards in the decoys.  This, my friends, is what December is all about.  This is duck hunting.

Here in southeastern Indiana, it is easy to do a lot of duck hunting and very little duck shooting.  After all, the key to shooting ducks is being where they want to be at.  More often than not, the ducks want to be in places that the hunters can't hunt.Therefore, it is imperative to capitalize when the opportunity to have a successful duck hunt occurs.  There are several things that I have found to give yourself an advantage on these very keen, underrated birds of feather.

Concealment is paramount for any waterfowl setup.  One of the best tools in my decoy bag is my RedHead Folding Saw.  This tool allows you to quickly build a blind or add to your existing blind.  Often overlooked in the blind making process is overhead cover.  Ducks will spot you quickly if you don't consider the top of your blind while building it.  Make sure that all of your shooting angles are clear and your gun is not going to hang on brush when you pull up.  Adding overhead cover will allow you to peek at the ducks while you are working them into the decoy spread.  Additionally, it may cover any unwanted movement made by you dog while they are circling.

Decoy placement is another key aspect of your setup when you are getting ready for shooting time.  Throwing out a few decoys on a small pond may work well in some instances.  I've had several good hunts without putting out any decoys at all.  However, these hunts have always been on very small water where I knew the ducks were flying into it anyway.  Any body of water larger than a half acre or so is going to require some sort of a decoy spread.  The extent of the spread depends on the situation you face going into your hunt.  For example, if you have a three acre lake that you have seen some ducks using recently, a large spread may not be necessary.  However, if you are hunting a large body of water like a reservoir or river, you may need a little bit more compelling spread to draw the ducks into your spot.  Whenever hunting the smaller outfit like a small lake or creek, I will usually keep my decoy count under two dozen.  Keep your decoys upwind of where you want the ducks to attempt to land.  If the wind is blowing left to right, put most of your spread on your left side.  If it is blowing straight away from your blind, form your spread into a wide "V".  Making your "V" nice and wide has been a key part of my setups over the years.  Imagine your blind at the bottom of the "V."  I usually go twenty yards left and right and twenty to 30 yards out for the tops of my "V."  This may vary depending on how much water you can wade(if you don't have a boat), the size of the body of water, and how hard the wind is blowing; the more wind, the wider your spread can be since you will not have to worry about motion in your decoys.  I will put groups of ducks on each tip of my "V," and fill in between them with a few swimmers to create the illusion that they are swimming back and forth between groups.  This also makes your spread appear larger than it may be and makes it very visible when hunting large bodies of water.

Regardless of how your decoys are set up and how nice of a blind you have, if you don't have any movement in your spread, you likely won't be very successful.  There are several ways to create movement in your spread but you have to be committed to it.  The best calling and the finest decoys can't make up for a lack of motion.  Many people throw out a spinning wing duck and assume that is good enough.  Usually this works great at first light.  However, as the day moves on and the sun comes out, you may actually do more bad than good with this type of decoy.  I've seen it go both ways, but I will generally pull my Baby Mojo Ducks after the first hour of shooting time.  This is especially true later in the season when the ducks become wise to these contraptions.  Additionally, many states have banned the use of motorized decoys for waterfowling.  Luckily there are other options available.   Most of the motion created in my decoy spread spawns from the jerk cord setup I employ.  A jerk cord puts out plenty of commotion on the water that can be controlled by the user in response to how the ducks are acting.  They are especially effective on calm, clear days, but are invaluable even on moderately windy days.  Bass Pro shops offers the perfect ready to hunt jerk rig: the Rig 'Em Right Waterfowl Jerk Rig.  This setup has a 100 foot bungee cord with a small anchor on the end and four clips to attach decoys to.  It retails at $29.99 and is a great setup for any spread.  I made my own since this product was not available at the time.  Simply take your favorite decoy and get a folding grappling anchor.  Attach a 2-3 foot bungee cord to the anchor and to the front of the keel on your decoy.  Buy a spool of nylon cord (100-200 foot works great) and tie it to the front of the keel on your decoy as well.  Tie loops in the nylon cord in about 4-6 foot increments as desired so you can add more decoys to your line.  I like to pick out the decoys that I am going to use for my rig and attach shower curtain hangers to the front of the keel so you can attach and detach your decoys from the line quickly.  Whenever you pull the cord, the bungee will snap the decoy back and give it the appearance of a feeding duck.  

Hopefully the tips highlighted here will help you on your next outing.  Just make sure that movement in your decoys is your first priority and everything else will fall into place.

Merry Christmas!

Brian Eickholtz

Honeymoon Doves

Wedding Day September means that it’s time to hit the corn, oat, and buckwheat fields of my home state of Pennsylvania in pursuit of one of the fastest winged sporting birds around. And if you can bring a few home for dinner without expending multiple boxes of shells then you can count yourself lucky. Sitting along a flyway in the late afternoon as the sun sets is one of the most peaceful and relaxing ways to spend a few hours once your eyes stop mistaking dragonflies and swallows for speeding doves.

Spending the first day afield was such an important tradition for me that my honeymoon was spent in the fields surrounding Siegel Marsh in Erie County. Many folks thought it was entirely wrong that we would be shooting the symbol of peace and love, but the true hunters of the family didn't even bat and eyelash.  Although we didn’t put down all that many birds, my new bride enjoyed herself and learned a bit about why you can take the boy out of Pennsylvania but you can’t take the Pennsylvania out of the boy. She came to appreciate the gentle breezes carrying the scent of fresh-cut hay, cow manure, and spent gunpowder across the fields, the sound of honking Canada geese as they return to their home ponds each night, and the sight of a few stray feathers drifting to earth after a well placed shot. She understood why I had to be home for the first day and has stood by and endured 18 more seasons since then.

Mojo DoveFlorida has a long tradition of dove hunting as well but it starts a bit later in the year due to the delayed arrival of the migrating flocks from up north. Our season doesn’t begin until October and by the time birds get to us, they can be a bit educated. Success requires proper blind location and many times, effective use of decoys such as the motor or wind-driven Mojo Doves. Luck is with us in one regard and that is the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s commitment to providing dove hunting opportunities across the state. They even have a hotline you can call in the days leading up to your hunt, allowing you to check on crop type, field conditions, and harvest numbers from previous hunts. The commission works with local farmers to provide a quality hunting experience over productive fields so there is no reason to skip what could become a family tradition or at the very least, a memorable honeymoon experience……

Brian "Beastman" Eastman
White River Fly Shop
Outdoor World Orlando


Choosing A Turkey Decoy

By Alyssa Haukom

Nothing ensures success more than using the right decoy setup with the right calling tactics.

Any turkey hunter will tell you that decoys can be an effective hunting tool, utilized best during the spring turkey season. When the timing is right nothing can ensure a successful end to your hunt more than using the right decoy setup combined with the right calling tactics. The question is, how do you pick the correct decoy or group of decoys to use, and what are the decoy options available? Here's a quick review of your choices and how they can best work to make your time in the field well spent.


Decoy Materials


Decoys are manufactured from a variety of materials. The most simplistic designs found in stores are simply turkey images on cardboard. More sophisticated are lightweight one-dimensional fabrics with either the hen or gobbler image on both sides, and the most sophisticated designs are three-dimensional vinyl, foam, or polyethylene turkey bodies with extremely realistic feathers and colors impregnated onto the material used.  Any of these styles may work in the right situation, but there are obvious choices as to which style to choose based on ease of use, weight, and weather conditions.


Obviously, the cardboard and fabric one-dimensional styles may appear realistic head-on, but as a turkey approaches to investigate your setup, it may become wary at the lack of "volume" these decoys display as they're circled by an approaching bird. Another drawback is the deterioration of the cardboard in wet weather. Not a good, reliable decoy to use in inclement weather.  If you're heading out on a long hunt, you don't need your hunt to be cut short by an unsuspected rain shower which ruins your decoy.  While the cardboard styles tend to be lightweight to carry, they can still be awkward in shape to easily pack. The fabric styles are extremely lightweight and fold up for easy transport while taking up minimal space in a fanny pack or backpack.  They are also excellent for wind-induced movement in the field, although once again, they lack volume and can put a smart old tom on alert when detected at close range.


By far, the optimum decoys to use are the realistic and weatherproof three-dimensional vinyl, foam or polyethylene styles.  While some "molded" designs may be more cumbersome to carry and best used for hunting at nearby locations, the majority of these new 3-D decoys feature lightweight, compact, collapsible bodies which literally "pop" right into shape once shaken or punched-out from the inside cavity. Inflatable styles are generally made of vinyl and can be quickly inflated or deflated for easy transport in and out of the woods. These newer materials are waterproof and extremely realistic in appearance but an added bonus for these 3-D decoys are their ability to move with even the slightest of breezes, mimicking actual turkey behavior in the field and thereby calming any wary hens or toms in the immediate area. The three-dimensional decoys come in a variety of poses and configurations, which can all be used to your advantage in the field.


Nothing can infuriate a mature Tom more, than to see some young boy chasing after "his" hens.

Turkey Decoy Styles 


Next to consider when choosing your decoy or group of decoys, are the different styles available.  For the males, you'll find Jakes, "hot" or "aggressive" Jakes, full strut Toms or even a breeding pair setup, with a Hen below and Jake positioned on top. 


Hen decoys are sold as "alert" hens (standing upright), "feeding" hens (bent over) or "breeding" hens (low to the ground).  Moveable hen decoys

can be purchased that will mimic all three positions which increases your flexibility to use it effectively in the field and reduces your need to carry several different styles. 


One of the best choices to make when purchasing a decoy is a hen.  An even better choice would be to purchase several hens of various positions.


Generally, you're trying to attract a big old Tom turkey.  In the spring, a mature Tom is usually in search of a hen to breed, regardless of the timing...whether it's early, mid or late spring.  When he sees a hen, he's going to gravitate toward it.  Simply placing a standing or feeding hen approximately 15 to 20 yards in front of your position will usually lure that Tom right in. Several hens are even better, since they commonly travel in flocks, and can add to the "natural" look of your setup.  Consider placing a few standing and a couple of others feeding; start your yelping and cutting, and you're set!

If you're after a more mature Tom, consider adding a Jake to the group or a breeding hen with a Jake positioned nearby.


Nothing can infuriate a mature Tom more, than to see some young boy chasing after "his" hens.  A "Full Strut Tom" or "Breeding Pair" can both be used to lure a mature Boss Tom who doesn't appreciate a stranger moving in on his harem. 


These "challenge" setups may work best during early season when the mature gobblers are ready to fight each other for the available hens, but don't hesitate to experiment with different setups; sometimes the tried and true setups can work, other times they won't.  Remember too, that while these setups can provoke an older bird earlier in the season, it may also deter an older bird later in the season when their urge to breed has waned a bit and their eagerness to fight has dwindled. Later in the season you might consider simply using a variety of hens placed in a group, without adding a Jake to the setup.


Moving Decoys


Several decoy manufacturers have catered to hunter's requests for lifelike movement in their decoys, as found in the Buckwing LifeLite Bobb'n Head Series Decoys and the MOJO Outdoors Turn Around Remote-Controlled Turkey. (A word of caution: before utilizing these styles in the field, be sure to check turkey hunting regulations and state hunting laws where you'll be hunting to be sure use of moving or electronic decoys are legal.)


The added naturalness displayed by moveable decoys is just what's needed to bring that old Gobbler within shooting distance.

Some decoys feature "moveable" bodies, allowing the hunter to choose which of several positions he wishes to place his decoy, such as in the alert, breeding, or feeding positions. More advanced moveable styles enable the hunter to tie string from decoy to hunter (the string is usually sold with the decoy and wound onto a "reel" which is also included) and with a twitch of the string, the hunter can rock the entire body up and down, or pull it to the side, or pull just the head down, to mimic a feeding turkey.  With the electronic models, simply pushing a specific button will result in a desired movement.


While a bit more work and more movement will be required by the hunter, the added naturalness displayed by these moveable decoy setups is often just what's needed to bring that old Gobbler within shooting distance.


Decoy Accessories


While decoys are fun to experiment with, it's imperative you make using them and transporting them a pleasure as well. When purchased, most are usually sold with a decoy stake or stand.  The easiest to carry are the two-piece collapsible rods, best if attached with a bungee cord to ensure the two pieces don't get separated from each other.  A nice option for the 3-D decoys, are the "umbrella" type expander stakes which feature several prongs at the top which help maintain the decoy's 3-D shape, especially in a stiff wind which can otherwise collapse them if attached to a thin rod.


If you wish to create movement with any decoy, simply purchase and tie some monofilament fishing line to your decoy and use it to create a bit of movement as a gobbler approaches -- often just some simple wiggling detected by the approaching bird is all it takes to keep it coming and prevent it from "hanging up" just out of range. 


Be sure to use a quality turkey vest with padded hunting seat, plenty of accessory pockets and built-in backpack large enough to hold several decoys.  Rods can be placed at the bottom of the backpack pocket and decoys folded and stacked.  Be sure to never leave a decoys head, especially a red or blue painted head, poking out from your backpack when walking, as this could potentially attract the attention of an eager turkey hunter in the woods, unaware of your presence. Too avoid accidents, the best choice is to wear a blaze orange hat or blaze orange piece of clothing whenever walking in or out of the turkey woods. 


Upon returning to camp, be sure to use a dry cloth to wipe any dirt or water from your decoys and stakes, and to dry them thoroughly to preserve them and prevent damage or decay from moisture.  Repair any rips or holes with either glue or tape, and store decoys in a clean, dry place out of direct sunlight. 


With the proper care and storage, your decoys should last a long time and serve you well on many successful turkey hunts.


Shop Bass Pro's complete selection of Turkey Decoys.


Decoying Waterfowl: The Art and Science

By James Joslin

Decoys in Timber
A duck hunter retrieves a bird after firing into a group of mallards. Note that the decoys include hen and drake dekes placed closely together to simulate the pairing of mates that occurs late in duck season.

"A thousand years ago in the Southwest, an Indian sat in a cave and fashioned a counterfeit canvasback duck. He formed the head and body of reeds, bound them tightly with bulrushes and colored them with pigments. Finally he stuck feathers into the body to make it as lifelike as possible.

"The finished product was what is now the world's oldest known waterfowl decoy. It was discovered in Lovelock Cave, Nevada, in 1924. Today anybody can see it in New York's Museum of the American Indian."

That is how Erwin A. Bauer chose to begin Chapter 8: "Waterfowl Decoys" in his book, The Duck Hunter's Bible.

I was lucky enough to pick up a copy of this work when Mom found one at a flea market during my early teenage years. The purchase cost me only $1, but the purchase price has been returned to me a thousandfold by the information and guidance contained within its pages.

Although the publication date shows 1965, little has truly changed in the basic concept of decoying waterfowl over the 40+ years that have elapsed since this Bible hit the bookstores.

Decoying ducks and geese involves using the birds' senses of sight and instinct against them. Basically, you want the spread of duck and/or goose decoys to look as real as possible -- in the eyes of the ducks and geese.

Over the decades upon decades that man has pursued waterfowl, much advice has been dispensed. And, much of that advice is still valid today.

Colony Waterfowl
Snow and blue geese are colony waterfowl, meaning that they relate to one another in large groups -- sometimes into the hundreds or thousands.

One concept of proper decoying deals with the shape of a decoy setup. In this vein, duck decoys may be arranged in shapes that appear to roughly translate into the letters J, C, O, U or V, or into shapes like a fish hook or a half moon. Meanwhile, goose decoys may be arranged in patterns resembling the letters X, O, Y or V, with some modification based on the wind. The key ingredient found in the idea of decoy setup shapes is that a hole, or landing zone, needs to be left in the setup to provide a spot where the ducks and/or geese can land well within shotgun range.

Other lessons learned by yesteryear's waterfowlers include those of varied decoy sizes and shapes, playing the numbers game, use of color and contrast, high visibility positioning, the allure of movement and the impression of security and comfort. Briefly touching on each of these facets of decoying waterfowl, here are the general ideas behind each concept.

Sizes and Shapes
Decoys of various size and shape offer a look of realism to a decoy spread. After all, all ducks don't look identical, and the same is true of geese. Incorporating different types, brands and species of decoys should accomplish the thrust of this belief. One way I have found to set this idea in motion is to use goose decoys while duck hunting or vice versa. The addition of those other birds seems to translate into more shooting based on my hunting experiences.

Hunters may find that ducks and geese are more willing to work their decoy spreads by mixing birds to give an appeal to more species and the appearance of available food and security.The Numbers Game
Most waterfowl are more likely to come to a higher number of bodies, whether on the water or in a field. Think of it like this. Do you want to go to the party where there are only a handful of guests, or would you rather head over to the big party where everybody is having a good time? Enough said. That being said, you may have to go against the grain later in the season when ducks and/or geese become educated and decoy shy.

Color and Contrast
Waterfowl biologists have noted that two colors that (according to the artsy set) aren't even actual colors are the colors that pop out most when doing aerial surveys of waterfowl. Those are black and white. In keeping with this school of thought, some hunters have added white to some of their decoys or have darkened the paint scheme of some mallard hens or Canada geese. The addition of contrast to this equation means that you should keep in mind what will show up when the birds are flying over. Dark bodies against a dark field don't provide much contrast. But, adding, for instance, some snow goose decoys to one side of a spread of Canadas would give those birds something to key in on as they ponder where to land.

High Visibility
Have you ever noticed that when geese or ducks are funneling down into a spot, it seems like every other bird within five miles is drawn in like a magnet? Why? Well, the other birds can see that action. This sort of activity can be accomplished by hunters wanting to add kites to a spread. Or, keeping this a ground game, position the decoys at a spot where the birds can easily see them when passing overhead or fairly near. This could mean a high point in a field for a dry land setup or keeping decoys out of the brush and vegetation when in the water.

How many of us have purchased a Mojo Mallard or similar product? Of course, these spinning-wing decoys can be highly effective, but they are illegal in some areas. There are, however, many other ways to impart movement to waterfowl decoys. One of the oldest tricks for duck hunting is the use of a jerk rig. A string is attached to one or more decoy and run to the blind or other hiding spot of the hunters. When ducks pass by, pulling on the string creates surface action on the water. Meanwhile, decoying geese has included such tactics as flagging. Taking this even one step farther, you can even wave your "wings" to attract the attention of geese still at some distance from your setup.

White-fronted geese, commonly referred to as Specklebellies, are familial birds as evidenced by this hunter retrieving his harvest from a group of decoys barely numbering double digits.Security and Comfort
Just like us humans, waterfowl have their own Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Yes, the birds want food, rest and companionship. All these things can be advertised to ducks and geese through a decoy spread. Security is an issue that can go hand in hand with the numbers game. Food can appear readily available by having the decoys in a spot where harvested grain has been spilled. Rest and companionship go together to provide comfort for the birds. With predators, including man, always on the prowl, ducks and geese look for spots that provide them both security and comfort. Consider a day with high winds, and note that birds will often seek out a place that blocks those winds. Or, think about how waterfowl sometimes choose to land near other birds like herons. That's why manufacturers produce confidence decoys (read Keith Sutton's article Confidence Decoys and Duck Hunting).

In recent years, though, some of the newer generation's waterfowlers have spoken up and noted that bucking the trend is the way to go in decoying ducks and geese. Thus, some have abandoned the idea of certain setup shapes, excessive numbers of decoys and other long held decoying beliefs.

Truthfully, the best way to learn is through trial and error and showing a willingness to adapt to varied situations and learn from more experienced waterfowlers. So, if all else fails, find the oldest, crusty duck and goose hunter in your neighborhood. Offer to buy a steak dinner. Then, get pen and paper ready and beg to tag along for a few trips.

To illustrate the individuality and intelligence that hunters must apply to waterfowl decoying, I turn again to Bauer and The Duck Hunter's Bible. In the latter paragraphs of Chapter 8, he wrote:

"The proper placement of decoys and the arrangement of a good stool (old name for a decoy spread) is a subject for controversy wherever two or more duck hunters gather. Ducks are about as unpredictable as trout in heavily fished waters. To say that one type of placement will work is about like saying a certain fly will always catch trout. Trout fishermen know there is no such fly.

"To tell the truth, entire volumes could be written on the proper placement of waterfowl decoys. But it really boils down to the individual shooter's ingenuity and to his instinct for what will more quickly and more effectively attract waterfowl within shooting range. Some days the ducks will make a man feel he is truly an expert and that he has at last mastered decoy placement. On other days they will make him wish he had stayed home."

Additional Decoying Tips

Late in the duck season, place some mallard drake and hen decoys in pairs. The pairing off of mated mallards coincides with the end of duck season, so this might provide a little more realism for the greenheads and susies you want to bag. As for geese, consider placing dark goose (Canada or white-fronted geese) decoys in family groups of three to eight and light goose (snow and blue geese) decoys in colony groups of 12-50 or more. That's how they tend to relate in real life and why it takes fewer decoys to get Canadas and specklebellies consistently into shotgun range.