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Don't be lame duck - use call wisely

Dec. 29, 2013 at 6:29 a.m.

An influx of late-season teal have kept retrievers retrieving.

The greatest conservation tool ever created for ducks is the duck call. Knowing when to call and when to play the quiet game distinguishes the pro from the rookie. Blown discretely and sweetly, a melodious tuned call seals the deal.

Blown like a party horn at a 5-year-old birthday party and you might as well wear a flashing neon sign with an arrow reading, "Look at me, I am duck hunting."

Plenty of hunters shoot lots of ducks without ever uttering a note. When I call, it is normally to turn ducks. I never hail a quack when ducks are cupped and committed. Why would you?

You only increase your chances of making a mistake.

Instead, try whistling. Since most species co-habituate on the same ponds, the whistle of a wary pintail can be a confidence call to other pintails, wigeons, gadwalls and teal.

In my opinion, less is more in calling. Call-makers might disagree, but in all my years of guiding, I seldom have made longer than a five-note, "quack, waaaack, waaack, waack, wack." Once I get their attention and turn them, I shut up and whistle. If the duck turns and becomes disinterested again, I hit them with a three-note call to try and get them back.

It is really about what the ducks want on that day. It changes every day, sometimes, every hour.

The best hunters adapt to the attitude of the ducks.

There is no shortage of motion-making duck decoys available for today's waterfowler. Vibrating, quivering, flapping and oscillating quackers adorn mail-order catalogs and most contemporary marsh, timber or flooded ponds.

These mechanical deceivers work so well, some states have banned the devices altogether. Despite their effectiveness, hard-hunted ducks are catching on to the feverish trend.

I spent about 55 days in the field hunting waterfowl each season. Some days, the mechanical decoys work to perfection; other days, they flare birds. "Ducks are adapting to mechanical decoys," said Walter Solomon, owner and inventor of WonderDuck Decoys in Marshall. "There are so many new duck hunters in the field and so many variations of motion decoys. The ducks are becoming educated."

Solomon was the innovator of winged-motion decoys. Though there are many representations of his idea, he is the guy who started it all. I have watched the evolution of his decoys from paper wings early in the 1990s to a swimming, vertical wing-flapping decoy today. I broke the first story of his invention in 1994 while residing in East Texas.

"We had to do something different to set us apart," said Solomon. "I created a vertical flapping decoy opposed to the circular motion the other decoys have."

The boys at Hackberry Rod and Gun have their motion decoys hard-wired to the blind. With a flip of a light switch, the flappers flap, and with another flip, they stop.

"Some days, the birds want them; some days, they don't," said Guy Stansel. "Teal seem to love them, but big ducks like gadwalls and pintails are fickle at times. Every day is different."

The best hunters know when to turn it on and turn it off.

Bink Grimes is a freelance writer, photographer, author and licensed captain(binkgrimes@sbcglobal.net).

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