Realizing that Colder Weather Means Tighter Decoy Spreads

Understanding When Old Ducks Become New Ducks

01/17/2019 Comments (0) Duck Hunting

Taking Ducks and Geese Ugly with Pass Shooting

Editor’s Note: Barney Calef of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, who has been hunting ducks for 48 years, is the owner of Calef Calls Inc. ( that produces duck and goose calls.

This method is what I call taking ducks and geese ugly and is a last-resort tactic that I use when ducks fly over our blind but won’t commit and come into the decoys. I’ll set my decoy spread up 60-yards downwind of my blind. When the ducks start getting low coming toward the decoys but then pick up and begin climbing away from the decoys, we’re in a perfect position as they fly over the blind.

This type of duck hunting is setting-up like you will if you’re going to pass-shoot doves as they come into a cornfield. You know the ducks aren’t going to light in the decoys. Before they get into gun range, you understand that they’ll start climbing higher in the sky and not present a shot, but you  know that they’re going to come within about 60 or 70 yards of your blind and decoys before they start climbing. So, if you put your blind out in front of your decoys instead of behind your decoys, the ducks still will be low enough to shoot when they fly over the blind. But you won’t have the opportunity to see those ducks nearly come to a standstill in the air as they will when they’re dropping in to the decoys.

I know that some hunters believe that the only time you should shoot a duck is when they’re dropping into the decoys. However, I’m not going to sit in the blind knowing that the ducks aren’t coming in to the decoys, and all I’m going to be able to do is watch them. Remember what I’ve mentioned earlier: when you’re hunting late-season ducks that have seen all the blinds and all the decoy spreads in the region you’re hunting, they’ve also heard any and every duck call known to man. You’ve got to do something different than the other duck hunters are doing. If you want to bag your birds, setting-up your blind 60-yards downwind of your decoy spread and pass shooting the ducks is something different than most hunters ever will do.

I hate to take ducks like that. But if you spend most of the morning not pulling the trigger on ducks, I’ve found that pass shooting ducks is better than not shooting ducks. When the ducks are outsmarting you, you’ve got to change tactics and outsmart them. Most duck hunters, including myself, really like to see those ducks and geese come into the decoy spread, cup their wings and prepare to light. When we’re pass-shooting ducks, they’re flying right over the top of our blind, and I think that’s one of the easiest shots to determine your lead. You swing the barrel of your gun from behind the duck to the front of the duck. When the duck disappears, you shoot and continue your lead, and those ducks will drop almost every single time.

I’m often asked, “What gun and shells do you use when you duck hunt?” I shoot a Browning ( Maxus 12 gauge, and I shoot Rio ( BlueSteel shells. I don’t try to shoot ducks at 60 or 70 yards. I let those ducks fly by. I only shoot ducks when they’re what I consider easy killable. We shoot most of our ducks at 25 yards.

To learn more about hunting, go to to see John E. Phillips’ Kindle, print and Audible books.

Tomorrow: Understanding When Old Ducks Become New Ducks

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