Sadly, it’s that time of year that we start thinking about next year. In a few short months, our waterfowl season has come and gone… what I call the fastest 60 days of the year!
But don’t let the post season lull get you down. This is a great time to take care of a few things.
First of all, if you lease property like I do, this is the time of year we work on a few things around our marsh lease and goose fields. It’s only a matter of time before the heat hits and I can tell you around here on the Chesapeake Bay, the marsh comes alive when it gets warmer. The mosquitoes and flies are big enough they could carry a lab puppy away! We already have our work parties scheduled over the next couple of weekends to un-brush our blinds, make a few repairs by throwing in a few more screws, and make a few adjustments to our goose pits while it’s fresh in our mind. We also need to get it done now because the farmer will have his crops going soon and dragging lumber and tools for repairs across the farmers freshly planted ag field is great way to lose your lease!
Here at my home, I’m fortunate enough to have two 10x16 sheds that I store all of my decoys, blind materials, and layout blinds in. However, over the course of the season… it tends to get messy! My sons and I already spent last weekend going through our decoy sheds and cleaning them up. We actually pulled everything out, cleaned some decoys that had mud on them, repaired decoys that were missing weights from broken lines, and re-organized them. My sons actually did such a good job with the cleaning and reorganizing that I now have enough room in one of my sheds to mount my bow press and arrow saw on the workbench! That’s a bonus… and it makes the wife happy to get more of my stuff out of the basement.
If you’re like me, and most duck hunters are, you have a lot of decoys. You might even border on having too many decoys, if that’s even possible. While pulling decoys out and reorganizing our stuff, I took inventory of everything. Sounds like a basic thing, right. Of course, you know what decoys you have. I thought the same thing until I sat down and looked at the list of what I jam packed into those sheds out back. I realized I have some species that I am light in and never realized this because one of my buddies always brought his decoys.
We lease 400 acres of marsh in the southern part of the Chesapeake Bay and we see large groups of black ducks there. So basically, if I ever went without him bringing his decoys, I wouldn’t have enough on hand to hunt it effectively during certain times of the year. I also realized I have so many bluebills that I can probably sell a few because they will most likely never see water. Selling off some of the surplus will give me the cash to purchase other equipment. Pretty sure we can all agree, it doesn’t matter what brand you like, every piece of waterfowl gear is expensive. So while I have an army of sons, 5 to be exact, to help me with these projects, I also have an army hunters to outfit with waders, guns, ammo, and the most expensive part of most of hunting trips… snacks!
I even have a few scoters and old squaws that my hunting group… mostly my sons… have shot up! When it comes to killing cripples in the sea duck spread, nothing is safe in the water, especially the decoys because they don’t dive like that cripple does! But that’s ok, I know I can send them into the team at Fowl Foolers and get them repaired, including a fresh coat of paint to make them look new again.
The last thing to think about is your duck hunting rig. If you have a boat, especially boat used primarily for duck hunting, make a list of "fixes" that need some attention. I have a boat that I use primarily for duck hunting and although we strip the blind off it, we don't use it much in summer because we have another boat that we use for fishing and crabbing. The problem I have had in the past is when I put the duck boat away at the end of the season, I tend to forget about all those little projects I have been thinking about, especially when I'm hunting out of it. This year I made a list, and we plan on tackling everything before July 15th. Why July 15th you might be asking? That's when we start preparing our marsh by planting some millet and scouting the area to see what resident birds we have for the first split.
So, don’t let the end of your waterfowl season depress you. Get out there and work on your properties and your gear. Play with your decoys and don’t be afraid trying to make some of your own decoys too. Doesn’t matter if it’s a foam or wooden block, it’s fun and it can help burn through the summer months.
If you don’t prepare now, it’s hard to get caught up in August. If you have kids in sports, you know how grueling that schedule can be. Between work, kids activities, fishing, and vacations, it’s easy to fall behind in your waterfowling “chores”. Jump on them now before life gets in the way… September will be here before you know it.
We just wanted to share with you some of the new paint schemes that our new Lead Painter, Daniel Allard, is working on. We are so excited to have him as a part of our team and the heads that he has painted so far have been nothing short of spectacular!
We are taking orders now for decoys with the new heads! Call now to get yours in time for Christmas!
Check out some heads that are in progress!
Fowl Foolers is pleased to announce that it has hired Daniel Allard, who will join the Fowl Foolers team as the Lead Decoy Paint Consultant, working both in the plant and in his home-based studio in Marengo, Ohio. In this role, Daniel will be responsible for overseeing the painting of all Fowl Foolers Decoys as well as improving the current paint schemes across the product line.
Daniel, a well-known waterfowl artist has built his portfolio by entering a number of conservation stamp competitions, often landing in the top five in a field of amazingly talented artists. Although he has multiple top 5 finishes, he has been fortunate enough to recently win the 2018-19 Delaware State Stamp competition with a painting of a Pintail Duck and a Golden Retriever, and the Ohio Wetlands Stamp competition for 2018. Just this year he landed his second win as the 2018-19 Ohio Wetlands Habitat Stamp winner. Daniel said, “After 10 years of entering, I'm finally figuring out how to draw ducks and landed my first win. This is especially meaningful being it’s my home state. My mom was an avid birdwatcher and inspired my love of nature. She was the person who first encouraged me to enter duck stamp contests.”
When the four-time DU Artist of the year was asked about his work at Fowl Foolers, Daniel said “I am so impressed with the manufacturing process and the team at Fowl Foolers. When they approached me to help paint their more complex decoys and oversee the quality of the painting process, I had to jump at the chance to work with such a well established, local, decoy manufacturer.”
Fowl Foolers Owner, Scot Smith has said, “We are beyond pleased to have Daniel join our team. Daniel’s expertise and professionalism will help propel our successful line of decoys to the next level. There aren’t many decoy manufacturers around, especially in the foam decoy market, that can say they have a professional artist painting their decoys.”
The decoy heads that will see the biggest improvement with the addition to Allard will be the Buffleheads, Wood Ducks, Old Squaws, Scoters, and Wigeon. Keep an eye out for updates on the Fowl Foolers Facebook Page and website as some of the new paint schemes become available starting November 1, 2017.
Established in 1988, Fowl Foolers™ is a manufacturer of solid foam burlapped decoys and vintage style maple barrel duck and goose calls. Fowl Foolers™ holds five patents in the decoy industry and produces what is considered by most as the best foam decoy on the market today. The manufacturing plant and retail facility in Port Clinton, Ohio is set up to guarantee that the quality and innovation of Fowl Foolers™ remains at the highest levels.
Last year during the early teal season here in Maryland, a friend of mine wanted to hunt a small back bay pond only accessible by kayaking. I didn’t own a kayak at the time and was a little concerned about getting my overweight XXL butt into a small piece of plastic. He said, "no worries… I have a kayak you can use and we’ll be fine”. There’s no doubt we take some aggressive tactics in our pursuit for waterfowl, but one thing I won’t do is risk my life. However, in this instance, it was the September season and the water was less than three feet deep so I figured even if I dumped my kayak, I would survive.
So here I am, two seasons later and I have to say, I now own two kayaks. And have pursued ducks in some of the tightest mud-haven, shallow bays that I could never have accessed in the past. Kayak hunting has become a regular part of my Waterfowling Strategy. I wanted to share with you the top 5 reasons you should consider hunting from a kayak.
You should consider adding a kayak to your waterfowling strategy as it might give you access to birds you normally would not be able to pursue. Keep it fun and most importantly, keep it safe!
VP, Sales & Marketing
Building a decoy spread is one of the most important parts of planning your waterfowl hunts. It’s something that obviously requires planning before you ever place a decoy in the water. After many years of hunting the Chesapeake Bay here in Maryland, I have learned several decoy tricks that I think will help you increase your chances of getting more birds in your spread.
First of all, you need to understand what kind of waterfowl you have in your area. I know it sounds simple, but you would not believe how many hunters I have seen placing a particular species in their spread that is not common to the area they are hunting. One thing to keep in mind is what birds will be available during each split. In many areas of the country there are different species of ducks available during the latter parts of the season that you would never see early in the season.
The second thing you need to do after finding out what species of birds are in your area is to understand how many decoys you might need to successfully attract these ducks. For example, if your area holds large numbers of bluebills and most of your scouting has shown large flocks of ducks consisting of bluebills, redheads, and canvasbacks … then you need to build a decoy spread similar to the flocks you are seeing on the water! Which means you should not have two dozen redheads and a dozen bluebills in your spread. You should have just the opposite.
The third thing that you must consider and understand is having the ability to adapt your spread as the season progresses. As the season gets later and your local ducks have moved out, the northern ducks have migrated in, which means the species of your decoys will most likely be changing as well. Here’s a great example of what I mean. I have 400 acres of marsh that I hunt on the Lower Eastern Shore of Maryland. During the early season, I will put out teal, mallards, and a few black ducks. About 30 days later while hunting the exact same spot, I will put out mallards, black ducks, wigeon and gadwall decoys. And then 45 days or so after that, my spread will change to bluebills, redheads, buffleheads and canvasbacks. This shows three different decoy spreads being used all within the same spot. The only thing that has changed is the time of the season.
Not to make this more complicated but … along with adapting the types of ducks in your decoy spread you will also want to adapt the numbers of decoys you set out. Depending on the area you are hunting, as the season progresses you will most likely begin to increase the number of decoys in your spread. Quite often it takes a large number of decoys in the spread to pull those large migrating flocks down out of the sky. However, don’t forget to pay attention to the number of birds and how they are situated when conducting your scouting.
Now here’s something I think you will find of interest. Fowl Foolers is now offering a “Build Your Own Spread” dozen of decoys. Here’s what that means. You can select any species of duck, any sex, and any head for your dozen of decoys. What this means for you is you can now custom build your decoy spread with the appropriate numbers of decoys of each species represented in your local flock of ducks. Therefore, you are no longer stuck getting a dozen of a particular species when you really only want seven or eight in your spread! Now you can get more by getting a different species as a part of your dozen. This will be available on our website by the end of the month but you can call into the office to order today! Call Roz at 419-960-7307 and tell her you want to “BUILD YOUR OWN SPREAD!”
The Cabela’s, annual Outdoor Adventure Day event was hosted in partnership with the Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation on Saturday, July 9, at 60 stores nationwide. The event offered interactive activities and fun for all ages. Families were encouraged to participate and learn about outdoor activities and recreation through informative seminars and hands-on activities provided by special group of outdoor professionals and partnering sporting organizations.
In Short Pump, VA, at Cabela’s, children and family members enjoyed a hot summer day indoors painting decoys. The decoy making activity was hosted by members of the Virginia Waterfowlers’ Association and the Rappahannock Carvers’ Guild.
Participants enjoyed the opportunity painting a variety of hand crafted duck decoys of many species. For many, the opportunity was their first time making a decoy. The event was free of charge and participants whom partake in the decoy painting activity took home free decoys. In a three hour period, thirty decoys were completed by the participants.
A variety of the decoys were made from components from Fowl Foolers decoys. In Virginia, decoy making has become popular year around activity at outdoor sportsmen events and 4H educational events. If you are interested in putting together a program or event making decoys, Fowl Foolers offers all the components needed to have a successful decoy making activity.
The following tips will help you master the art of reading ducks and adjust your calling to toll more birds into the Fowl Fooler Decoy Spread
Retrievers are hard-wired to fetch fallen birds. When a retriever sees a bird fall, his natural instinct is to go out and get it. Honing that innate ability so the dog hunts for you and not for himself is the key to the training process.
For this reason, the blind retrieve is perhaps the ultimate test of a finished duck dog.
A "blind" or "unseen" is a bird that a dog didn't see fall. To locate the bird, the dog needs to rely on his handler. This skill comes in handy in a variety of hunting scenarios. For example, when the action is heavy, your dog may be unable to mark each bird that falls. Likewise, your retriever may need help with locating a wing-tipped duck that sails a long way across the marsh or through the timber.
"Teaching a dog to retrieve an unseen is advanced field work," says Mike Stewart, of Wildrose Kennels in Oxford, Mississippi. "But it isn't difficult if you have already laid a solid training foundation with skills such as obedience, steadiness, whistle training, casting, and various handling exercises."
Stewart says there are four parts to running a blind retrieve: lining, handling, hunting, and confidence. Lining is the dog's ability to take and follow the correct line or direct route to a bird despite barriers and distractions.
Handling involves your ability to control and direct the dog to a fall area. Hunting is the dog's skill at aggressively searching the area of the downed bird. And confidence is the dog's trust in both himself and in his handler's ability to direct him to the bird.
"This is, to a large degree, a trust issue," Stewart explains. "Your dog must respond positively to your commands. As such, he must have confidence that something good awaits when you send him in the direction of a downed bird. This exercise epitomizes the importance of a strong partnership between handler and retriever."
In Stewart's training program, proper lining is taught through memory patterns, in which the dog retrieves a bumper by remembering its placement over time and following the correct line to the reward. One of the rules of Stewart's Wildrose method is "Memories before hand signals, hand signals before marks." This has the advantage of promoting patience and steadiness. When the dog doesn't see the bumper fall but has to remember its location, he's less likely to break. In that sense, memories offer a better transition to blind retrieves.
In preparation for blind retrieves, Stewart's dogs run four memory exercises, including sight, trailing, circle, and loop drills. The dogs then learn "permanent unseens," "time-delay memories," and "cold unseens." In a permanent unseen the bumper is preplaced, so the dog has not seen it. Time delays involve extending the time between the placement of the bumper and the retrieve. And a cold unseen is simply another term for blind retrieve—that is, the dog fetches a bumper that he didn't see fall, in an unfamiliar place.
"Go slowly and use unseens judiciously," Stewart advises. "The value of balance in training cannot be overstated. As your advanced training continues to evolve, I recommend running cold unseens at a ratio of one unseen to five memories."
The key is to ensure that your retriever is successful during these training exercises. If your dog appears to be confused, start over. It is important for him to realize that he is being handled. Keep your retriever close in the beginning. This will give you better control over the dog and teach him to respond much more quickly to the whistle and your subsequent hand signals. Success builds confidence. And with that comes improved performance.
NYSDEC needs your help finding duck banding sites!
Every year, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, cooperating federal agencies and dedicated volunteers take to the field throughout the state to capture and band waterfowl. Annually, over 8,000 game birds are banded in NY and the data is used by biologists throughout the Atlantic Flyway to better understand harvest, movement patterns, and survival of the common breeding waterfowl species(mallards, wood ducks, and black ducks).
Banding ducks during the late summer/early fall can be quite difficult because birds are more spread out across the landscape and there is an abundance of natural foods. Finding suitable banding sites, close to office locations, is especially difficult. Because of these hurdles, DEC is asking for your help!
We are requesting your assistance in one of three ways:
1) identifying banding locations and obtaining permission to band
2) baiting banding sites – baiting sites involves visiting the wetland daily or every other day to put down bait
The ideal bait sites have the following characteristics:
1) Secure – an area where the trap will not be disturbed by people
2) Easy to access – often the traps are awkward to carry or heavy, having locations with vehicle access close to the wetland is important
3) Few or no Canada geese – like ducks, geese love corn and other popular baits for duck traps
4) Not a popular September Canada goose hunting area - our preference will be to run the trap through mid-September and we do not want to interfere with waterfowl hunting opportunities; trapping involves baiting the site and the area would be considered baited under federal regulations
We are looking for banding locations in the following areas:
If you think a wetland you own or can help obtain permission on fits the above description and is located in one of the areas highlighted in green (above) - please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org! In the e-mail, please include your name, contact information, and the street address or description of the wetlands location. Someone from our staff will follow up with you and determine if the site is suitable for banding.
Thank you for your time and help!
The NYSDEC Migratory Game Bird Team