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Keep Notes and Bag More Birds

Keeping Notes is an Excellent Tool for Future Success and to Help You Hunt With Purpose

Hunt With Purpose and Bag More Birds
(Photo courtesy of WILDFOWL Magazine)

As Dad and I do at the end of every season, we sat down to review the stats. Last season was good, but not nearly as good as the season before, and our notes confirmed that.

Dad and I have a waterfowl lease we hunt two to three times a week, all season long. At the end of every hunt, we write down notes. Dad’s are more detailed than mine.

In addition to recording the species and sex of ducks and geese killed that day, Dad documents the weather conditions, wind speed and direction, how many birds we saw throughout the hunt, what time of day the biggest pushes of birds came, and what adjustments we made in the decoy spread, if any.

I keep close track of what brand of shells we’re shooting on each hunt, what specific loads we’re using, and how they perform. I count the number of shots taken and our kills. I also note details about specific decoys we’re using and how they’re set. We’re constantly comparing loads and adjusting decoys as the season progresses. Dad and I rely on gathering detailed information on each hunt in order to learn.

On the drive home together after every hunt, we recap the events while they're fresh in our minds. Before we even make it home, we’re planning for the next hunt, ready to make adjustments that will hopefully help us find better success.

My Dad is 82 years old, and I’m 59. Dad was a biology teacher and basketball and football coach at a big high school for over 30 years. I was a science teacher for 12 years and coached multiple high school sports before getting into the outdoor industry full-time over 20 years ago. Dad and I have always been into numbers because numbers don’t lie.

By The Numbers

Numbers and notes validate what happens during a hunt, as well as throughout the season. Going into a hunt knowing you’re going to observe and gather data makes you hunt with a purpose. I strive to learn all I can from each and every hunt. I yearn for accurate information. I don’t go through the motions, kill a few ducks, and call it good. I always watch how birds respond to decoy spreads, note how various environmental conditions impact bird movement and behavior, and analyze the moves I make. I keep track of massive storms along with occurrences like avian influenza, even things I learn from wildlife officials and fellow hunters.

When you hunt with a purpose, you have a goal in mind, and in order to achieve that goal, you have to proceed with efficiency and effectiveness. Haphazardly tossing out decoys and hiding in a less than properly concealed blind, then having birds flare all day is not hunting with a purpose. That’s either lazy hunting or hunting and not paying attention to how you can improve. If birds are flaring, figure out why. Step to the other side of your spread and study the decoys and your blind. Are there proper landing zones in the decoys or is your blind too visible? 

Where Dad and I hunt, the wind is always changing and greatly varies in intensity. On such days, it’s common to reset the decoys five or six times a morning. 

Two hunters holding a limit of ducks
(Photo courtesy of WILDFOWL Magazine)

If you want to find out which loads shoot best in your gun, pattern it on paper, and then hunt with it. Pay close attention to your shots and the range at which you’re shooting at birds. Not only will you likely be surprised how differently shells perform, but you’ll find one or two loads you won’t want to go hunting without. To see how loads execute, avoid shooting that bag full of mixed loads. Instead, shoot a specific brand or a different load each time you go out. When swatting cripples on the water, watch your pattern closely to see what it does. 

At the lease Dad and I hunt, we have a permanent A-frame blind we made from panel wire. Most of the time that’s what we hunt out of. But sometimes the wind conditions are such that we have to move because birds approach the decoys from a different angle and finish short of us. For these situations, we have holes carved into cut banks to hide in and plenty of brush to nestle into. Rather than risk crippling birds by shooting at longer ranges, we sometimes hunt from outside the blind.

For many of us, shooting limits is the goal. But some days, we’re happy to kill two or three birds. Still, by approaching every hunt with a purpose, you enter the game with the intent of succeeding, and carrying such expectations makes you think and adjust, something you otherwise might fail to do. A passive hunter may not recognize bird behavior, thus realizing what can be done to lure them into shooting range. 

Recommended


Purpose Driven Hunting

When you hunt with a purpose, you go into it better prepared. You’re more organized, don’t cut corners, and work harder with more focus in order to succeed. You pay closer attention to details, and as veteran waterfowlers know, it’s the little things that can make a big difference in the outcome of any hunt.

Hunting with a purpose provides a clear vision. You embark upon each hunt with an expected outcome, and if that outcome isn’t being achieved, you make adjustments on the spot. It can be something as simple as repositioning decoys, or fixing the black hole in your blind. Maybe your dog needs a better hide, or perhaps birds simply don’t want to be where you’re set up so you have to move. Maybe your gun needs cleaning so it cycles more efficiently, or maybe you need to refrain from calling so much. If you want to shoot decoying ducks, don’t pull the trigger on the first pass. The list goes on.

Hunting with a purpose forces you to do something to win. It makes you think and pay attention to every aspect of the hunt. This season, plan ahead and take notes. Then examine those notes–even diagrams of your decoy spread.

Done right, notes become a valuable reference. Dad and I have been taking detailed notes since we started hunting this lease six years ago. The lease before this, we did the same with for 12 years. Years of data and information are more than just notes; they’re your playbook, and playbooks hold a lot of valuable information.

This article originally appeared in the August 2023 issue of WILDFOWL Magazine.




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