Duck Hunting Tips for Pre-Season

Duck Hunting Tips for Pre-Season

Duck openers are ticking off one-by-one, and by now I’m sure a lot of you have shot a few limits of those drab brown ducks, still waiting on the plumage of late fall. But how do you keep those birds bombing the decoys until the first north wind blows and the big push funnels gobs of mallards down the flyways? It’s no easy task, but if you do it right, and put in the work, the first weeks of the season can be as bountiful as the last. Here are some duck hunting tips to get you started.

Smart Spreads

You and I both know every hunter in the marsh is trying to call birds over two-dozen greenhead decoys and a spinner. DON’T DO THAT! Not if you want to consistently kill birds. I try and get teal, wood ducks, pintails, or wigeon mixed in with mallard floaters. Those species are all typically around from the opener into the first weeks of the year. And I run a mallard and teal Mojo. It’s probably me being an anal duck hunter, but I like the different speeds the spinners turn on. Also, put a few Canada geese at the end of the hole where you want the birds to finish. They act as a blocker so birds won’t finish outside the decoys. That’s actually a great tactic to employ anytime. For more duck decoy tips, watch this 60-second video.

Location, Location


Moist soil impoundments are your best bet for early-season birds. Flooded milo, rice, millet, and even beans are great for killing limits. You wanted duck hunting tips, well here's my best recipe for success: target millet in knee-deep water near a refuge or river. Those woodies and teal will start buzzing before sunrise, and you’ll catch a few in the first hour of legal shooting light, along with the odd mallard. Don’t be afraid to stick around past 10 a.m. either. Sometimes 10 o’clock is the magic hour. The wind picks up, and all of a sudden birds come out of the woodwork.

Calling Kills


How and when you call is in direct relation to how many birds you’re going to shoot this year. OK, some ducks are going to want in no matter what you do, but here is a tip to follow: if everyone in the marsh is high-balling flocks of ducks that look like they’re in the next county, shut up. Let all those guys get as aggressive as they want, but you should be hitting birds with quacks, a few notes, and finishing with light feeder chuckles. Conversely, if it’s the first migration of the season, feel free to blow your guts out at those monstrous flocks of mallards. Watch this quick video on duck calling to learn one more tried and true tactic.

Do it Different

Of all the duck hunting tips, I can't stress this one enough: don’t do what everyone else is doing—at any time of the season. Every hunter has to have at least one trick in the bag, whether that’s adding more on-water motion or throwing a six-pack of bufflehead decoys in a puddle duck spread. Be willing to go to places other hunters aren’t. Most guys won’t walk a mile to shoot a duck, but you should because the hardest workers in this sport are the ones who have more success season after season.

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Mossberg 500 Waterfowl Shotgun, 12 gauge, #55128

Set yourself up for the best duck hunting season ever, try the Mossberg 500 Waterfowl Shotgun on your next duck hunt with the Mossy Oak Shadow Grass Blades finish and barrel to blend right into your environment.

About the Author

Joe Genzel

Joe Genzel has been a writer and editor for over 15 years. He grew up chasing mallards and Canada geese on the Illinois River with his father and continues to pursue his passion for the birds as the associate editor of Wildfowl and Gun Dog Magazines.
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