Eight ways your duck or goose hunt can go sideways, and how to fix it when it does
#1 THE BIRDS WON’T FINISH
You’re set up in the right place and the birds are on their way, but just as they close to within 150 metres, they veer off. The second flight does the same thing.
Watch the birds carefully. Are they flaring, or are they just sliding off to the side? If they’re flaring, it’s usually because they see something that makes them suspicious. Get out of your blind and take a careful look at your set-up. Are approaching birds seeing something reflective? Could it be that some of your group are peeking early and revealing shiny faces? Are the decoys frosted up and reflecting light? Was something left out on the ground during set-up in the dark? If you can identify the problem, fix it.
At times, the issue may be the combination of sun and wind; birds approaching directly into the sun often get glare from the decoys. Flocked decoys help, but often the best remedy is to reposition your blind along one wing of your set-up and shoot approaching birds from the side.
If the birds are sliding off to one side of your spread, it’s most often either a case of poor decoy positioning or you’re dealing with previously hunted birds that have become blind-shy. Start by opening up one wing of your spread, on the side the birds want to be on. If that doesn’t work, moving your blind onto one wing and shooting the birds as they cross in front of you is, again, the best solution. With a crosswind set-up, approaching birds don’t have a blind full of hunters staring them in the face.
Finally, consider your calling. Overcalling can make birds nervous as they’re preparing to commit. As a rule, the only time to call raucously is when approaching birds are doing the same; otherwise, less is more with waterfowl on their final approach.