Waterfowl tips that help improve your success in the field.

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.

 

Bag’em Outdoors Waterfowl Gear

Waterfowl Hunting Accessories Waterfowl Gear for Organization and Transport

As waterfowl hunters, one of the aspects of the hunt that we dread is setting up and tearing down. It takes a ton of time and at the end of the hunt we often throw everything in the trailer as fast as we can in order to go eat or get home. In muddy situations we are forced to strap decoy bags anywhere we can find on the ATV or carry as much as we can through the mud. The end result is exhaustion from multiple trips and dirty waterfowl gear for the next hunt. Problems with decoy bags, trailer organization, and transport are a thing of the past thanks to Bag’Em Outdoors who offers decoy bags, ATV Decoy Bag Racks, and Decoy Trailer Bag Racks.

Trailer Organization

The hunt always starts at the trailer where all your waterfowl gear is stored. We often stack bags, totes, and blinds on top of each other. These can lead to disorganization, items falling in transit, and wasted space. The Bag’Em Outdoors Decoy Trailer Bag Rack solves these issues. The racks are easy to install with a handful of washers and screws. The rail systems, made of 11 gauge heavy duty steel, go at the top of the trailer on both sides. The rails are custom sized to fit your trailer and coupled with a support rail at the connection of the two tracks. This system allows us to hang decoys at the top of the trailer opening up storage underneath for other waterfowl gear. In transit, we no longer have to deal with stacks of items falling over. We attached the decoy bags to the slide poles using the heavy duty carabiner and simply slide the pole to the front of the trailer. Our trailer system utilizes three poles and allows us to hang 6+ decoy bags depending on the size of the decoy. The poles are locked into place via the Channel slide pole locks that fit into the rails. Many guys build shelf systems in their trailers. While this keeps gear in place, it also takes away from storage space for waterfowl gear. The Bag’Em Outdoors Trailer System takes up virtually no space, but still keeps your decoys in place and maximizes storage.

 

Decoy Bags

The decoy bags (dimensions: 36L x 34W x 24H) are heavy duty nylon and feature an eyelet on each side for attaching a carabiner. This allows the user to hang the bags higher than if the carabiner was attached to the handles. The Bag’Em Outdoors Decoy Bags feature shoulder straps for carrying, individual pocket drainage, and are large enough to fit even the biggest decoy. We were recently using Bigfoot Canada Goose decoys and could easily fit 6 in a bag with feet attached. We could also fit 20 dozen Snow Goose socks in the bag. The 20 dozen fit comfortably and depending on the type of sock used, you could fit up to 700.

ATV Decoy and Waterfowl Gear Transportation

Transporting the decoys and waterfowl gear from the trailer to the field is achieved through the ATV Decoy Bag Rack. The racks are customized to fit your ATV. They can be attached to either the front or rear rack and fastened with u-bolts. The rack system has arms extended off both sides allowing you to hang gear or decoy bags out of the mud. The best part is this gear is hanging away from the ATV so you still have room on the rack for more decoy bags, waterfowl blinds, or other gear. If you were to have racks on both the front and rear you could carry up to 8 bags at a time. Your transport time will be more than cut in half, you won’t be exhausted, and your decoys willstay clean. The arms conveniently fold in or you can take the side mounts off by removing two pins for pulling your ATV into the trailer. You’ll spend more time hunting rather than preparing for the hunt.Waterfowl hunters are always looking for ways to make the hunt easier. The guys at Bag’Em Outdoors have created decoy bags for trailer organization and transport that save transportation time and space for waterfowl gear. They’re hunters just like us who would love to hunt every day of the week. Instead, they’re limited to a couple days a week. The products that Bag’em Outdoors offers helps maximize the limited amount of time many of us actually get to spend hunting. We all lead busy lives and there’s no time to waste organizing trailers, making multiple trips across fields carrying waterfowl gear, or pulling a stuck truck and trailers out of fields. The Bag’Em Outdoors Decoy Bags, ATV Decoy Bag Racks, and Decoy Trailer Bag Racks give hunters solutions to these problems and allow them to hunt smarter, not harder.

 

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Patterning Shotguns For Waterfowl Hunting

Patterning Shotguns for Waterfowl Hunting

Patterning shotguns for waterfowl hunting is an often overlooked aspect of the hunt. So much emphasis is put on decoy placement, concealment, and scouting, but none of that matters if you’re throwing a pattern out there that that isn’t uniform and has holes in it. The only way to find out what your gun is doing is to test it on the range much like turkey hunters do. You want to give yourself the best chance possible at harvesting that passing duck or goose and firing some shots down range is the way to do so.

 

The Test

We gathered some waterfowl hunting buddies up in southern Illinois and ended up with a small arsenal of guns and ammo.  We were well prepared had a fight broke out! Each shot took place at 40 yards into a 20 inch circle without the use of a bench. Targets were marked and labeled after each shot, then grouped by gun. We used the Winchester Super X2, Beretta A400, Beretta XTrema 2, Benelli Super Black Eagle, Remington 870, and the Remington SP-10. Bear in mind that no two guns are the same. You could take 2 of the same make/model of gun and not get the same results from using the same choke/shell combo. You can use this data as a starting point for your patterning shotguns for waterfowl hunting, but don’t take it as the gospel. Just because a choke/shell combo didn’t perform well in our test doesn’t mean both should be abandoned. Try the same choke with a different shell or the same shell with a different choke. Most of us have a few chokes laying around to use and by inviting some buddies to the range with you, you’ll have a variety of shells that you can all try.

Setup

Our setup wasn’t ideal. It wasn’t by the book like most people say how to do it, but it was consistent. Every shot was fired at the same distance and the same size circle. Most tests you read about take place at 40 yards into a 30 inch circle. We had chunks of cardboard from a recent move that only measured 20 inches.  We used what we had and for the sake of consistency, they worked. Now don’t go comparing our shot numbers and percentages to other tests because their targets are probably larger allowing more pellets to be counted. What we wanted to do was see what our guns were doing and give others an idea of how different shell/choke combos stacked up against each other. This is far from scientific, but come on, we are resourceful waterfowl hunters!

What to Look For

When patterning shotguns for waterfowl hunting, it isn’t just about the number of pellets in the circle. You want your pattern to be uniform throughout the circle and have a minimal number of bare spots in it.

Patterning Shotguns for Waterfowl HuntingEveryone would like to see a completely uniform pattern across the circle, but it is nearly impossible to achieve. Good results minimize and keep the gaps at 3 inches or under. The example at left shows a centered pattern, but there is a noticeable gap at the bottom left of the 20 inch circle. The pellets that did hit low and left hit outside of the target circle. When shooting a smaller size shot, the shell has more pellets in it, but that doesn’t necessarily mean more pellets on target. Some load and choke combos just don’t work well. The number of pellets on target is an important part of taking a bird down, but it’s penetration that kills. Penetration comes from the speed and size of the shot. It obviously takes more energy to penetrate the thick down of a goose and since they are a larger animal we typically utilize BB shot size. For ducks, their feathers are thinner and they aren’t as large as a goose so 2’s typically work well.  Shot size for ducks or geese isn’t set in stone. It carries a bit of personal preference in the decision, but keep in mind your typical shot distance and the size of the birds you’re going after.

Our Patterning Shotguns for Waterfowl Hunting Results

Gun Choke Shell Size Shot Size Shell Make Hits/TotalPercentage
RemingtonSP10 Factory I.M. 3.5 2 RemingtonHS Steel 82/?/?
Factory Modified 3.5 2 Black Cloud 121/18864%
Remington870 Factory Modified 3.5 BB Black Cloud 60/10856%
BenelliSBE Factory Modified 3.5 BB Black Cloud 71/18838%
WinchesterSX2 SRM Terror .655 3 3 Black Cloud 75/19838%
SRM Terror .655 3 2 Hevi-Metal 81/18644%
Briley I.M. 3 2 Hevi-Metal 88/18647%
Kicks Modified 3 2 Kent 50/15632%
SRM Terror .655 3 2 Kent 50/15632%
SRM Terror .655 3 1 Estate 56/12943%
SRM Terror .655 3.5 2 Black Cloud 121/18864%
SRM Terror .655 3.5 BB Kent 57/9958%
BerettaXtrema 2 Wrights Full 3 1 Estate 61/12947%
Wrights Full 3.5 2 Hevi-Metal 77/21137%
Wrights Full 3.5 2 Black Cloud 70/18837%
Wrights Full 3.5 2 Black Cloud 65/18835%
Wrights Modified 3.5 3 Black Cloud 50/18827%
Beretta A400 Factory Full 3 2 Hevi-Metal 67/18636%
Factory Full 3.5 2 Black Cloud 77/18841%
Factory Full 3.5 BB Kent 47/9948%

You can see the number of pellets in the shell didn’t always mean more pellets on target. The Super X2 shooting the 3’s is advertised as having 198 pellets per shell while the 2’s have 186. The 2’s had 6 more pellets on target while being advertised as having 12 fewer pellets in the shell. It all boils down to finding the load(s) your gun performs best with.  For the SP10 we used in our shotgun patterning, the load that performed best was 3.5 inch #2 Black Cloud through the factory modified choke tube. The center of the pattern was slightly high and left, but still managed to put 121 inside the 20 inch circle.

Patterning Shotguns for Waterfowl Hunting

Take these results as a guide. Each gun is different and it’s up to you to test and obtain your own results. We owe it to the waterfowl we pursue to limit the number of cripples and lost birds. As diehard waterfowl hunters we are always looking for something to do in the offseason and what better way to get a fix than patterning shotguns for waterfowl hunting this coming season.

 

 

Am I Concealed Enough When Duck Hunting?

Concealment is one of the most important factors in successful duck hunting. In order to pull birds in close, the hunters must blend with the surroundings. Whether it a corn field from a layout blind, a levee on a flooded rice field, or a secluded pocket of a lake, taking time to blend into the native vegetation will help draw ducks into range. Layout blinds must be mudded to reduce shine and hunters should spend time before the hunt using the native vegetation to break up the outline of their blind. Boat blinds need a dark base color on both the inside and outside of the blind. You also need to utilize elements from the environment you’re hunting in. Cattails, young willow trees, or entire stalks of corn can be fastened to the outside of the blind. Be sure to cut shooting lanes to allow shots at ducks flying by, but don’t make them so big that they ruin your hide. Pit blinds, while 90% hidden already still need work done to the top. When duck hunting, birds have an aerial view and can see right down into the pit. The top or lids of the pit must be concealed. Using vegetation from around the are will help the hide, but you must also remember to keep the lid closed as much as possible to keep from being seen. These are just a few tips you can use next season in order to fool weary ducks and improve your duck hunting.