Hunting without decoys can be an excellent way to increase your duck hunting success. Several tried-and-true methods can help you achieve this objective.
The first method is to rely on your calling skills. Calling is an excellent way to draw ducks closer to you and make your decoy spread more successfully.
Concealment is key when hunting ducks and geese on the move. Whether hunting marshes, shorelines of ponds or lakes, along riverbanks, or in agricultural fields, camouflage is essential for success. Fortunately, there are some excellent techniques for concealing yourself when duck hunting without decoys.
Layout Blinds: For waterfowl hunting, layout blinds are an excellent option to conceal the hunter lying prone. These long, cloth coverings with brush loops sewn onto the outside protect wary birds while providing ample cover.
If you’re hunting a shallow pond, use some floater decoys. These decoys can be purchased or easily repainted at home with flat/matte spray paint; prices usually range from $40-$60.
Used Duck Floater Decoys: Facebook marketplace and local garage sales are great places to find pre-owned duck decoys. Make sure they don’t have any holes in them; otherwise, taking them hunting could prove disastrous!
When hunting a large pond or lake, using single and pairs of floater decoys can often draw in ducks that are flying overhead. This method of enticing passing birds to land on your spread or landing area can be an effective strategy for catching large numbers of birds.
Hunting from a blind situated within an east-west crosswind (blowing right to left or left to right) will also draw in ducks. This method works best when targeting woodies or muscovy ducks since they often fly over open water to their feeding or resting spots before circling back over it.
Mobile Duck Blinds: Mobility is key when it comes to packing up and taking it with you at any given moment. This requires carrying only what is necessary and adapting your approach and setup based on the current situation.
A sling is an indispensable accessory for mobile duck hunters, as it enables quick movement and protects your gun from harsh sunlight. A supportive sling also allows you to shoot without straining either your shoulder muscles or neck.
Scouting is an essential aspect of duck hunting, and it doesn’t just involve driving gravel roads in the fall. Scouting involves spending hours scanning skies, fields, and marshes as well as hard work and good fortune.
When hunting without decoys, scouting can help you identify good spots that produce consistently. Doing this helps save time and resources from trying to locate an ineffective location.
Scouting for ducks can identify the ideal areas to roost, feed, or loaf. These may include creeks and streams, small ponds, and even agricultural fields and pastures. You can use apps like OnX and Google Earth to scan these water bodies for potential roost sites or feeding locations.
Once you’ve identified all of the prime spots for duck watching, create a list of them. Include some locations where you’ve seen ducks previously that might attract birds again.
You can also look for a spot where many ducks fly over or locate a high point nearby. Doing this will allow you to spot a roost or feeding point from a distance, making your hunt more efficient.
If you’re fishing a lake or river, try using decoys to block smaller feeder sloughs or side channels. Doing this will cause ducks to stop and take a look around, increasing your chances of landing a bird with ease.
To be successful, you’ll need to scout the area you plan to hunt and wear camouflaged clothing. Furthermore, be quiet and move slowly so as not to draw attention to yourself.
This is especially essential if you’re using a blind on a small stream or slough. A few singles or pairs of decoys placed downstream along the edges of these channels will create pinch points that attract birds toward your blind.
Another useful scouting tactic is to focus on locations historically used by migrators, especially during cold fronts or when temperatures are slightly warmer. This can be beneficial when a major migration passes through and you might spot some of the same ducks from years past.
Hunting near water bodies
Water bodies are essential when hunting ducks, whether with decoys or without. To effectively hunt near these water sources, you need to have an intimate knowledge of how ducks use the water and where they tend to congregate.
To identify potential water bodies, the most straightforward method is to scout them out. As you do this, listen for birds in the water and look out for any signs of activity. Depending on what kind of hunting you’re doing, this might include watching for ducks hopping around in weedy sloughs or jumping along the edge of small ponds.
Another strategy is to search for natural funnels. These are long paths used by ducks to get from one place to the next and are usually marked by trees on both sides of the path. These spots can serve as ideal hiding places without needing decoys.
Boats can also be utilized to scout for water bodies and hide your decoys. Usually painted in various shades of brown, tan, green, and black to blend in with the landscape, boats can provide excellent concealment when hunting.
When hunting with a boat, the vessel must be in excellent working order and able to navigate sloughs and potholes with ease. Furthermore, keeping your vessel’s keels clean and plugging pellet holes to prevent debris accumulation would be wise.
Finally, ensure your shotgun is loaded with a nontoxic shot. Heavy ammunition without a modified choke will damage your birds and diminish their chances of survival.
As a general rule, always wear camouflage when duck hunting. This will keep the ducks from noticing you and will increase the likelihood of having an effective hunt.
In addition to camouflage clothing, hunters may also don face masks and camouflage gloves to conceal their identity. This also serves to protect them from elements and minimizes the chance of injuries.
A dog is an invaluable asset when duck hunting. Their keen sense of smell can help you locate injured or downed ducks and enable safe retrieval. Furthermore, the canine may alert you to those ducks in distress who may be on their way out of sight.
Decoys can be beneficial during the early part of a duck season, but their effectiveness fades as the season progresses. Furthermore, they require significant setup and take up less room afterward.
One way to hunt without decoys is by baiting. This involves spreading food (like corn, wheat, or salt) in an area to attract ducks. Hunters using this technique must remember that once an area has been baited, they cannot legally hunt over it until 10 days after the feed has been removed.
Another method of baiting is using mechanical decoys. Popular choices among duck hunters are spinners and jerk-cord rigs, which add realistic movement to static decoys by attaching a string at the bottom and pulling it up and down.
The jerk-cord rig can create the illusion of feeding, making it especially effective in shallow ponds. When birds approach the rig, a switch engages its propeller, causing the decoy to tip over as if scooping up grain from below.
Waterfowlers who depend on decoys should have plenty of them handy, as ducks are easily fooled by large groups. You can purchase these from local sports stores or online retailers.
In addition to setting up decoys, hunters should consider wearing full camo. This will help conceal their bodies and enable them to remain undetected in the field.
Flooded fields present a special challenge when hunting, as hunters cannot hide in trees as easily. To combat this, hunters can place decoys on the surface of the mud and conceal their bodies with leaves or netting.
Before hunting the field, it’s essential to scout the area and understand ducks’ flying patterns. Scouting will also give you a good idea of which terrain the birds prefer. Once you know their route, place your blind near these points for optimal success. This helps focus your efforts more efficiently and increases the chances of capturing more ducks.