The Fowl Line: Screen-worthy tips for hunting ducks and geese

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While field hunting for ducks or geese, most hunters place blinds directly in or adjacent to their decoy spread’s landing zone. There are times, however, when placing blinds further off to the side and away from the main spread can yield better results. Staying hidden off to the side and away from the spread’s “action” will keep the wary eyes of ducks and geese off of the hunters. Photo by Howard Communications

By John Pollmann

There was a period of time when I spent a number of days each fall with a video crew to help produce the “Take ‘Em” series of waterfowling hunting videos from Hunters Specialties. I was far from the star of the shows, though I did produce some good bloopers, and I’ll be forever grateful for the opportunities because the hunts allowed me to spend time with great friends in some great places.

Along the way I also discovered how being in front of the camera often changed the approach to a hunt, and those lessons remain with me today, long after my career on the screen has ended.

Here are a three simple tips that will help you enjoy your days in the field or the marsh, whether there are cameras rolling or not.

1. Concealment

Hiding from the eyes of wary ducks and geese is important, but the job becomes markedly more difficult when you need to conceal a cameraman and all of his gear. When filming, we did everything possible to make sure that decoying birds could not detect the extra body and related camera movement.

Attempts were always made to use the shadows provided by natural surroundings to our advantage or, at the very least, have the sun at our back so the birds would have difficulty seeing us on their final approach to the decoys. Other times we placed the cameraman away from the decoys and where the shooters were hiding, and a similar tactic can work in other scenarios.

Placing blinds to the side and away from the main spread of decoys allows you to better employ the use of motion decoys, a jerk-string rig and other things intended to draw attention. In other words, staying hidden off to the side of where all the action is will keep the eyes of ducks and geese off of the hunters. Plus, the resulting crossing shots are often shooter-friendly.

2. Picking Your Shots

When videoing a hunt, a duck in the hand didn’t mean much if the kill wasn’t captured on film, which meant communication within the blind was vital to identifying when to shoot.

Designating the person who will be calling the shot is important in a group-hunting situation, as it helps provide a layer of safety for hunters and dogs, and it also creates the opportunity to single out a shooter — perhaps a young hunter or someone new to waterfowling — who can shoot a single bird or pair of birds over the decoys.

Attempting to capture a shot on film also forced us to pick our shots a little more judiciously, a tactic that easily translates to a traditional hunting situation.

Not every bird that flies overhead needs to be shot at, especially if it is at the edge of effective shotgun range. There isn’t much worse than sending a duck or a goose flying away carrying a partial load of steel shot. In addition, a hunter should always refrain from taking a shot at a bird over the decoys if it means shooting across the blind or otherwise putting other hunters or dogs in danger.

There is no crime in waiting for the right shot, but there is a lot of regret in ringing your buddy’s ears, or worse.

3. Don’t Forget the B-Roll

Perhaps some of the best memories of my time filming are those that occurred away from the action, though the cameras were often still rolling. The cameraman would always voice concerns about having enough “b-roll” footage, as it was crucial to helping craft a complete narrative and tell the story of the hunt.

Today, I try to place a similar emphasis on the b-roll and focus on the aspects of the hunt that mean as much or more than pulling the trigger. Some of this — the sunrise, dog work, birds in hand — I try to capture with my camera, but much of it — the laughs in the blind, a special glance from a hunting dog, a heart-felt congratulations from a friend on a good shot — is captured only with my mind and my heart.

My son, Miles, likes to pull out some of the old hunting videos from time to time, particularly one DVD that includes a blooper reel at the end. He seems to enjoy watching his father slip on a rock and completely submerge himself in the waters of the Cheyenne River in western South Dakota.

Time after time, Miles roars with laughter as I rise up from the fall, roaring with discomfort as my waders fill with water on a late December hunt. I can’t help but chuckle, too.

There are loads of good memories on those videos, but there are many more not on film. Remember, you don’t need a camera over your shoulder to make memories in the field or the marsh next season, either.

About the Author: Waterfowl columnist John Pollmann is from Dell Rapids, S.D. Follow him on Twitter @JohnPollmann.