HUNKER DOWN

 "Alright boys, hunker down! We got a flight of Pintails crossing out front moving right to left. They're a long ways out but they are looking at the spread. We can turn these birds and bring 'em in of we hunker down and hunt!"

As I looked at the strap of Teal hanging in the blind recently on opening morning of the Lake Livingston duck season, I thought the only thing that could add to a great hunt would be to bag a couple of Pintail Drakes. "The big ducks fly later" I said. "We will have to be patient, hunker down and hunt." We sat low in the blind and I spoke about duck hunting techniques.

The most important factor in successful duck hunting is concealment. Ironically, I often see hunters go to great extremes, but drop the ball on concealment. If the ducks see you the deal is blown. Whether you hunt out of a blind or natural cover, concealment is the number one priority. A hunter caught standing in the blind with incoming birds should remain frozen. It is the movement that often flares birds. A camoed hunter can blend in if he remains still. "Get down" is not used in my blind. Hunters suddenly dropping to their seats will flare birds every time. Hunters should stay low in the blind with the guide or designated watch peering through the brush describing bird movements. Keep gun barrels low and remain motionless until the shot is called. Shinning faces should be covered with a camo mask or face paint.

The next most important factor in successful duck hunting on Lake Livingston is scouting. You need to hunt where the birds want to be. This is the biggest understatement of all times. A few hundred yards can make a big difference. As water levels go up and down it will move the ducks. Ducks are attracted to a certain type of habitat. Hunt where the ducks want to be. Once ducks are found, then how are you going to hunt them? This brings you back to the number one most important factor in successful duck hunting, concealment. Always use natural concealment if it is available. I have had some great hunts by simply, hunkering down on a bucket in the cattails. If ducks are out in an open flat with no natural hiding place for hunters, then you can construct a temporary blind. While there are many ways to build a quick set blind, I've learned to set a few 2 inch poles in the mud, tie string around them and weave brush in the string. Camo material attached to the string with clothes pins goes along way toward filling in the gaps. Pruning shears and a machete are always in my boat to cut brush with. The blind should be brushed until you can't see through it. Also, set some brush inside the blind for better concealment. Always set up your blind with the sun to your back. On clear days this will blind the incoming ducks and make shooting easier. For a morning hunt, you should set up facing the northwest and with a southeast wind, you will have ducks cupping in your face.

No Pintails were taken on this recent hunt, but we hunkered down and we hunted hard. After the hunt, as we admired the heavy strap of Teal and Shovelers, I knew that scouting and concealment was the key to our success. There will be another day for a chance at a Pintail Drake as more ducks migrate down the Central Flyway.

Decoys, spread arrangements, calling and shooting skills are all important factors in putting together a successful duck hunt on Lake Livingston. The two most important techniques for success are scouting and concealment. The extra time and effort spent pre-scouting and providing concealment will put more birds on your strap. With record numbers of ducks coming down the Central Flyway and arriving daily on Lake Livingston, it is now time to hunker down and hunt! www.palmettoguideservice.com

Dave Cox of Palmetto Guide Service is a regular contributor to the Lake Livingston edition of the Texas Sportsguide.  This article has previously appeared in that publication.


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