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How To/Pro-Tips


Duck Hunting Safety

Duck boats are usually operated in remote areas, often in the dark and in rough weather. Staying safe is imperative.
Resist the temptation to overload. Big bags of decoys aren't heavy but they do take up a lot of room and if piled too high can obscure vision. Big, active dogs and small boats are a bad mix, particularly on rough water. Have your dog under control, not lurching all over the boat. If in doubt, make two safe trips rather than one risky one.
Wet plus cold equal potential hypothermia. I carry a change of warm clothes and fire-starting materials in a waterproof bag stashed in my boat. Have Coast Guard Approved personal floatation devices. They make these in camouflage, so there's no excuse not to wear them while the boat is moving.
Carry a compass and consider a two-way radio or a cell phone. Most importantly, tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back.

Be a Duck Locator

The easiest way to successfully call ducks and geese is to set up where they want to land. This requires scouting. Spending lots of time watching birds with binoculars pays dividends when you go to shoot.
In every marsh or swamp there are favored "duck holes." Some remain the same all season long and sometimes year after year. Others may change as the season progresses. For consistent success you should know which is which and where they are. Having several promising areas is good insurance.
Field feeding geese can be troublesome because they follow the abundance of fresh food. Snow geese are particularly bad about changing feeding locations on short notice. When you find a favored feeding spot, get on it quickly, while it is still hot.
I have several portable blinds that I use to keep up with current waterfowl usage patterns and to avoid over-shooting a good spot. Even a perennial hot spot can be cooled off by constant shooting.

Long Shots

These days there is much fuss about shooting whitetails at extreme ranges of 400 yards plus. Truth is, the technology is available to do this. Another truth is that most of us don't have that technology or the requisite skill to use it if we did.
It takes more than a super-fast cartridge clocking 3,000 feet per second plus. It also takes a super-accurate rifle that shoots one-inch or less groups at 100 yards. Every once in awhile we luck on to a from-the-factory rifle that shoots that well but usually such accuracy is the result of some fairly expensive tweaking by a professional gunsmith.

It also requires the best scope money can buy and we are talking pretty big money. Absolutely precise range-finding ability is another requirement. This is beyond "eye-ball it and guesstimate" range and requires a laser rangefinder accurate to within a few yards at a quarter mile.

Combine all this technology with well-honed shooting and wind-doping skills before dialing for long-distance bucks.

Proper Practice

Both archers and gun hunters should practice their shooting, but regular practice is critical for bowhunters. Archery is more demanding of both physical strength and good reflexes and only regular practice will keep those skills honed.

Start light to keep from getting sore. I like to practice at full hunting weight and break point, so my first sessions are very short until I get my muscles in shape. Even then, short sessions are best. Five shots a day for a week are much better than 35 shots on Sunday afternoon.

Shoot with friends. There's nothing like a little peer pressure to keep you sharp. Once again, short sessions keep you focused.

Shoot from realistic hunting positions, including sitting down and from elevated stands if that's how you will be hunting this fall.

Once the season begins many hunters focus on the deer and slack off the shooting practice. Continue practicing. It doesn't take a long layoff to lose that critical edge a once-in-a-lifetime shot might require.

Cold Front Trophies

Several weather patterns affect deer movement and hunting success. One of the best, from the hunter's point of view, is a high-pressure cold front that drops temperatures slightly below normal. Deer, that are already in their winter coats and laying on insulating fat for the coming winter are invigorated by the cooler temperatures and tend to move more.
The first couple of days after a cold snap are good days to be on stand and the closer to the rut that the temperature drop occurs, the better. One downside of a cold front is that these systems often include wind.
High wind diminishes the deer's ability to scent or hear danger. With its two primary defenses impaired, deer are prone to move less. When they do move they are unusually jumpy and skittish.
Extreme cold or heavy snow or rain also depress deer movement. After a bout of extreme conditions it takes a day or so for the deer to return to normal movement patterns.



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