Waterfowl tips that help improve your success in the field.

Why I Waterfowl Hunt

waterfowl huntI like to think of myself as a versatile hunter. I chase turkeys, squirrels, rabbits, deer and doves throughout the year with plenty of dedication and passion. Despite the gusto I give each game animal, I believe every hunter should have one type of hunting by which he or she defines themselves. For me this is waterfowl.

My obsession with waterfowl borders on the unhealthy. What is so special about waterfowl hunting is that it takes some of the best things from other hunting pursuits and then adds in it’s own special characteristics that make it unique. Here’s what I love about it:

Camo

Waterfowl have incredible eyesight and in order to be successful you have to get your camo right. I have a closet full of different patterns that I like to mix and match depending on where we are hunting. The search for concealment extends to our blinds which give us plenty to stay busy with during the off-season. And of course there’s facepaint which has become all the rage in the hunting world and for good reason. It’s effective and it looks pretty cool in photos. My daughters call it my ‘war paint’.

Wing-shooting

I love my deer rifle, but my shotgun is my pride and joy. Waterfowl hunting means shooting animals on the move. It’s fast-paced and requires constant practice to improve. For me it’s also the most challenging and quite frankly the most fun type of shooting I do.

Weather

There’s a reason that waterfowl hunters get a reputation for being crazy. We welcome adverse conditions because they bring on some of the best action we get. Rain, sleet, cold. We take pride in hunting with ice in our beards. We’re like the postmen of the hunting world.

Dogs

Upland hunters get to take their dogs into the field and I’ve loved hunting behind them when I’ve had the opportunity, but usually they are out in front and the interaction with them is mostly all work. With waterfowl hunting, the dogs are in the blinds with us, sharing a snack and snuggling up to us in cold weather. On solo days our dogs make great companions and I have been known to have long conversations with my lab. When they get a chance to make a picture-perfect retrieve it almost feels like a bonus.

Gear

Hunters love their gear. If the saying, “He with the most toys wins,” then waterfowlers are the champs. Our style of hunting can require dozens of decoys, plenty of clothing, a variety of blinds, boats, waders and the list goes on. I won’t speculate about how many marriages have been placed in jeopardy by the quest for more gear, but I will say that my Cabelas wish list is obscene.

Water

Especially when hunting ducks, we take to the water. Whether it is a knee-deep pothole or the open ocean, waterfowlers are happy to be on the water because that is where the birds are. It adds an extra dimension to our hunts and feels a little more like an adventure.

Calling

I use calls with deer and turkey and occasionally even with squirrels. It’s a chance to interact with animals and calling adds an extra dimension to any hunting trip. With waterfowl hunting, effective calling is the mark of an experienced hunter. When you turn a whole flock in your direction, your hearts skip a beat. Working in tandem with other experienced callers is an art itself. And let’s face it, a lanyard full of calls is the universal symbol of waterfowling. You won’t ever catch me in the field without mine.

Repetition

Lat year I shot my deer on opening day of gun season. I just needed one doe to fill my freezer and while I was happy it was a successful hunt, it was weird driving home and knowing they season was already over. With waterfowling I can shoot plenty of birds all season long and not feel greedy about it.

Friends

Waterfowl hunting is often a team sport. Because it doesn’t require perfect silence you can have a good conversation when there aren’t birds overhead. Working as a team to call and flag birds into gun range is extremely gratifying. Having friends there to take your picture after the hunt and recount the best moments of the day is even better. The older I get the more important I find these friendships to be in my life. Waterfowl hunting gives me lots of opportunities to spend time with competent hunters in pursuit of a sport we love and for that I am grateful.

 

Mike Dwyer is a writer and outdoorsman from Louisville, KY. His work can be found at Ordinary Times and at mikedwyerwrites.com. Mike is also active on Twitter and Facebook.

PRT Retriever Training Products

Quality retriever training products are essential for proper training. Most hunters have thousands of dollars invested in their retriever, and each year dozens of hours go into training for hunt tests and waterfowl hunting season. Ease of use, durability, and cost are all important when selecting retriever training products and PRT Products are at the top of each of these categories.

The Cache River Blind

This blind stands on it’s own when it comes to training blinds. As a memeber of my local UKC retriever club, I have worked with quite a few blind stands. The 500D Cordura® Nylon fabric that this 8 foot blind is constructed with is by the most durable, water proof fabric I’ve seen on a blind stand. The three poles are made of thick steel that will put up with whatever you throw at it. In my opinion, this blind is the best on the market and the most reasonably priced! Whether I’m training on blind manners for a hunt test or using it to hide a launcher or bumper boy, this blind is perfect..

Dog Training BlindsPRT Retriever Training Products

 

Lone Gunman Deluxe Shotgun Stand

When it comes to training and using shotguns, a gun stand is a necessity! Handling a dog and a shotgun at the same time is unsafe and an accident waiting to happen. This stand has a very soft material on the cradle to rest the gun in. This helps keep your gun’s finish still intact with no harsh metal on metal contact. The two hooks on opposing side are ideal for hanging training essentials such as poppers, training remotes, calls, and whistles. Let’s not forget about the steel it’s made from as well. Coming from a guy that is hard on equipment, I have no fear the steel used in these products will have no problem holding up to my abuse.

Shotgun StandProducts

 

Hammertime Tie Out Stake

Retriever Stake

Once again, another well made steel product from PRT Products. Don’t let it’s small size fool you. I believe this tie out stake shows the the durability of all the products PRT constructs. The stake has a swivel top that let’s your dog run all the circles he or she wants to with no chain wrapping issues. I have taken a large hammer to this tie out and beat it into the hard summer ground. The Hammertime Tie Out Stake took all my swings with ease and no breaks. I was then able to pull out the stake with minimal to no effort. This was after a 75 pound lab pulling and yanking on it for an hour!

 

This is just a sampling of the PRT Products retriever training line. All of their products are constructed with quality and durability in mind while still being affordable to help you with all of your retriever training needs.

Re Flocking Waterfowl Decoys

Re Flocking Waterfowl Decoys

Putting decoys in bags and taking them out rubs the heads and eventually they will show signs of wear. No matter how much babying you do to your decoys, it’s inevitable they will show the effects of use. Re flocking waterfowl decoys is a cost effective way to bring new life to your decoys spread without having to buy replacement heads or even worse, new decoys.

Re flocking waterfowl decoys is not a project you want to tackle in a couple hours. It takes time and planning, but the end results can leave you with new looking decoys for waterfowl season. Before you begin, you need the following things.

1. Flocking material

This can be found in numerous places. Our was purchased from a taxidermy supply company, but is also available on Amazon and Ebay. A little bit of flocking goes a long ways. We used 1 pound and were able to re flock over 13 dozen decoys and still have plenty left over.

2. Black enamel paint

This is the base coat that is applied to the areas you will be re flocked. Just as the the flocking, a little bit of paint goes a long ways.

3. Paint brushes

Used to apply the paint.

4. Tin pans or large rubbermaid totes

We used these to collect excess flocking material.

5. Plastic condiment bottles

Fill with flocking and tap or lightly squeeze to apply the flocking.

How to Re Flock Waterfowl Decoys

1. Get any dirt or dust off of the flocked areas of your decoys. This will allow for a smooth, unblemished look when complete.

IMG_96612. Lightly apply the enamel paint. The tricky part is to keep the paint from running on the decoy. Apply a thin coat to start and dab it on to ensure the cracks are being filled. If you just brush it on, some areas may be left without paint. After initially covering the decoy, apply a second light coat, but not to the point that the paint runs.

3. Hold the decoy over the tin pan or rubbermaid container and light tap the condiment bottle that is filled with flocking. Cover an area then lightly shake the decoy to allow the excess flocking to fall into the container. Continue on the entire decoy only covering small areas at a time and letting the excess fall off. Every once in a while, the bottle will get clogged. A gentle squeeze will break the flocking loose and you can resume just tapping on the bottle to apply the flocking to the decoy head or tail.

IMG_9643

4. Once you have the entire area covered, give the decoy a good tap or shake to get any excess flocking off. You want the flocking to be smooth as it adheres to the paint on the head.

5. Allow the flocking/paint to dry over night before storing the decoys back in bags.

It’s not a hard process, but it is definitely one that you’ll want a large space for and if you’re doing more than a dozen decoys, you definitely want to invite some buddies over to help. Reflocking waterfowl decoys is a great off season project and is cheaper than buying replacement heads or new decoys.

Re Flocking Waterfowl Decoys

 

Off-Season Retriever Training

Keeping Your Retriever Sharp In The Off-Season

 

Off-Season Retriever Training

It’s that time of the year again, the off-season.  That time of year when we pack all of our hunting supplies up and shove them into a hole in the basement until fall rolls around again.  While dust collects on decoys, bags and other miscellaneous hunting gear, I believe a lot of people let activities with man’s best friend fall to the way-side. Dog training should never stop! I see it time and time again with hunters and their dogs. Once the off-season arrives, they just let their dog go. Nothing is worse than the beginning of hunting season coming around and you bring your beloved companion out hunting, and he/she only becomes a nuisance.  It reflects badly on you and annoys your friends, possibly to the point to where you are no longer invited.  To prevent you from becoming “that guy,” here are some helpful retriever training drills and advice to keep your dog in peak condition during the off-season.

Marking Drill

There are hundreds of tips and drills I could go over, but with this post I am going to touch on marking.  Marking is your dog’s ability to judge a downed bird’s distance by their sight and make a successful retrieve. The biggest problem I ran across with marking drills is finding help while training.  Marking drills seemed like a two person job and good help is hard to come by.  Don’t be discouraged thoughRetriever Training Drills because I have a marking drill that just requires YOU!  The first key to this exercise is having a steady dog. Have the dog sit, then start walking away from the dog telling them to stay if you are unsure of how they will handle sitting there by themselves. Keep the distance short for the first couple of retrieves.  Second, throw the bumper high up in the air so that your dog will see it.  Then give your dog the “go” command.  It’s that simple!  This will keep your dog’s marking skills up to par. Once you feel like your dog is getting good at this drill stretch it out. Push the dog to a 50 yard mark, then try a 100 yard mark and then finish with a short mark.  Mix the distances up to keep your dog on its “toes.”  Just remember to make it a fun activity with them.  Keep your training sessions short and your dog always wanting more!

If you have any questions about your hunting dog submit them to FowledReality.comFacebook & Twitter and we’ll try to answer them in our next retreiver training post.

Nick Graves

Golden Millet For Waterfowl

Waterfowl hunting success is often driven by the availability of fresh food sources whether it be an agricultural field or a waterfowl food plot. Waterfowl managers have the ability to control many aspects of the management practices that they perform, but mother nature always holds the upper hand. This year, many farmers and land managers have either lost planted crops or have yet to be able to work their ground thanks to the record rainfall across much of the midwest and central United States. Thousands of acres of corn will not be present this fall for the migration and waterfowl hunting. So what options are still available for hunters, clubs, and outfitters for their waterfowl food plots?

 

Golden Millet As A Waterfowl Food Plot

Golden Millet For Waterfowl5 Oaks Wildlife Services Golden Millet is a food source that performs in a variety of conditions. It’s short growing season to maturity makes it an excellent option for any year, but especially this year. As we approach the mid-summer months, hot and dry condition will likely prevail. The soil should eventually dry out to the point that planting can commence, but with only a short window before cooler fall temperatures approach, plants that are put in the ground will need to be quick maturing varieties.

 

Golden Millet features a 75 day maturity span. What sets it apart from other quickly maturing food sources for waterfowl is the prolific production of food. Waterfowl hunters know that food for migrating waterfowl plays a big part in the success of their hunting season. Golden Millet can provide up to 3,000 pounds of forage for waterfowl and at only $55 to $60 an acre, you’re saving money versus planting corn anyways.

Many waterfowl impoundments, green tree reservoirs, and bottom lands have not been able to be planted in corn this season. Much of this acreage was and still is too wet to plant and the water wasn’t able to be drawn off early enough in the growing season to promote a good moist soil bloom. These lost acres offer a perfect opportunity to plant Golden Millet. The filmy mud flats left behind from the excessive rains are a perfect environment for broadcasted Golden Millet. Golden Millet needs to be planted at least 75 days before the first frost to ensure it reaches maturity. For our area here in south-central Illinois, the average first frost is mid-October. Our planting window for Golden millet ends around August 1st. For areas further north into South Dakota, it will need to be planted by mid-July.

 Planting Golden Millet

Depending on your equipment, getting seed into the ground can be accomplished in a variety of different ways. Whatever method you have available, be sure to start with a good clean seed bed. Don’t be afraid to disk to get rid of unwanted vegetation, but be sure to have a firm seed bed before planting. Broadcasting Golden Millet can be done by plane for large acreage, drill, or basic hand spreader.  The small nature of Golden Millet seed allows for broadcasting on top of the soil followed by flushing it with water or catching a good rain to incorporate the seed barely into the soil. If you’re drilling, 1/8″ will work. If your seed doesn’t receive rain and needs moisture to germinate, flushing the impoundment will work, but be sure to get the water off within 24 hours.

 Growth and Maintenance

Once your Golden Millet emerges, be sure it gets adequate moisture to continue to grow. If flushing is needed again, be sure to get the water off within 24 hours. Once the plant reaches the 5 leaf stage, broadleaf controlling herbicide can be Golden Milletsprayed to remove the undesirables. Typically, by this point, the Golden Millet will be tall enough for a shallow flood. This is where Golden Millet stands apart from other waterfowl food sources in that it can continue to grow in standing water. The key is to keep the water at less than half of the plant height. For example, our Golden Millet last year was planted just before a rain in early August. Just a few weeks later, the remnants of a hurricane moved through southern Illinois and dropped 5+ inches of rain. Rather than having to remove all the water from the impoundment, we were able to just drop it a few inches to get the water level to around 8 inches because our Golden Millet was over 20 inches tall. The limitless water source for the plants can allow it to grow upwards of 10 inches a week and keep undesirable weed competition out.

 

For the waterfowl managers, outfitters, and guys with small acreage who have lost their opportunity to plant corn for duck hunting this fall, Golden Millet offers a fast maturing high producing forage for waterfowl. The limited growing season left can still be taken advantage of and with proper preparation and care, your duck holes can still be full of food courtesy of Golden Millet. For more information and for ordering Golden Millet visit 5 Oaks Wildlife Services.