Get Ready... It's Almost That Time Again!By Gilbert Arndt - September 1, 2002
One of the main areas of concern for me is care and training of my hunting partner the, retriever. This of course is a year round undertaking, especially if you train your own dogs. This is of new concern to me this season as my trusted hunting companion of 6 years, "Bear",(Bear Buddy Hunter) passed away unexpectedly on New Years Eve. He was a big, powerful lab, who made up for his lack of common sense, with heart and loyalty! So this season, thanks to my cousin, John, and his family, I acquired a 3 year old, Yellow Lab, "Grizz"(CBs Golden Grizzley Bear), no relation to my other "bear". He is quite a bit smaller and less powerful than "Bear", but he is an intelligent dog, and as Ted Nugent would say, "he's got SPIRIT". This brings us to training your dog, for the hunt. I like to be working year round on the commands, and retrieving skills, but I step up the pace in July, and August. At this time I also switch my dog to a Hi-Protein type dog food, and gradually increase the physical activity, especially the swimming. This gets the retriever in shape, and builds him up to handle the rigors ahead in the upcoming season! Remember, the more time you spend with your dog, the better he will trust you, and the more he will understand what you want!
The next phase of Duck Hunting preparation, which is also for myself a year round exercise, is Duck Calling. In the off season I try to pickup up my Duck calls and practice, at least once a week( I seem to slack off during Turkey season!) but by August, I am practicing everyday. This is critical for beginners, who are learning to call. Start out with a double reed call, like the Primos Original Wench, and try by varying both hand pressure, and air pressure to achieve the sounds you are looking for. I find recording yourself calling, will give you a more accurate idea of how you are sounding, and how to make corrections. If you are a total beginner, with no experienced help, get an instructional video, like Primos Mastering the Art Series, or similar audio tapes to help you get started. Get out and scout your hunting areas, and listen to the sounds various, undisturbed, feeding ducks, make, and try to imitate them. Another tip on calling is to use Teal calls, Wood Duck calls, or Drake Whistle calls, such as Primos Power Drake Whistle, to add more realism to your spreads. If you are an accomplished caller you might want to step up to Acrylic style calls, like Primos Acyrlic Wench double reed, or single reed calls for more volume, to pull in those high flyers! But whatever your preference, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!
Finally I would like to briefly cover equipment! First off, get that old trusty shotgun out, clean it, practice some wingshooting, on live, or clay pigeons, and clean it again. (make sure your 3 shot plug is in place also!) Get the blinds out, and repair, or replace what is needed. Make sure the boat is maintained, and ready to go, check camo, check life vests. If you hunt no motor areas like I do, inspect push poles, and paddles for wear, a broken oar or push pole in that situation, not only ruins the hunt, but could leave you stranded! Lastly get the decoys out, and inspect them. For a beginner, or someone looking to replace decoys Flambeau, has some excellent water keel mallards, at low prices, as well as great higher end decoys. Repaint old decoys if needed, and check decoy lines. These cords can fray, or rot, over the year, and now is the time to take care of this, rather than taking away valuable hunting time later. I use 4 different styles of decoy anchors, the ring,strap, mushroom, and star, or river anchor style. I prefer the lead strap style as you can easily bend the strap, to fit the occasion, and it offers ease of placing out, and bringing in, with out tangled lines. Also check those waders for leaks, and make sure your Mossy Oak Shadow Grass camo,still fits, and isn't faded, or torn. Make sure your supply of steel shot is ready to go, so you don't have any last minute expenses.
Well thats a brief checklist of things to get ready for the upcoming waterfowl season. I hope everyone has a safe and fun hunt this season , and maybe I will see you in the marshes! Lastly don't forget those licenses and stamps!!! Good Luck in the Great Outdoors!!!