Steady to Shot

Submitted by: Caleb Wilds

It’s the perfect storm, a black cloud of ducks are circling into your spread and like usual that one or two ducks are coming down and landing on the water before the rest. I know what you are thinking. That’s great! They are committing! But before the rest of the ducks have the chance to cup up in front of you, your dog breaks and spooks them and they flare away. I don’t know about you but nothing is more aggravating to me than when a dog breaks and scares away the ducks.

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Steady to shot is pretty much duck dog basics 101. I don’t mean your basic commands like sit, come, lie down and stay. If your dog does not know those commands you might want to consider leaving your pup at home next hunting trip. There are only two I am really concerned about when I am taking my pup on a hunt and that is place and they do not break or some may call it steady to shot. In my opinion a dog breaking is an inexcusable offense in a duck hunting dog and if not it should be!

IMG_2498Steady to shot is a very important aspect in a hunting dog. Because you won’t have to deal with your pup leaving the blind at inappropriate times or getting to excited and running into someone when they are taking shot or running all over the place looking for a bird when you missed, instead you can just tell him or her no bird. (Side note, I am just going to use her or she from now on because my dog is a girl.) You don’t have to use a gun or a starter pistol when you’re training your dog. It’s just not practical for some people due to the location they live at. You can start in your backyard with your dog sitting next to you on a leash or a lead rope in your hand and a bumper. You tell her to stay and you throw the bumper. If she breaks you pull her back to the spot she was sitting wait a few seconds then you can command her to go get the bumper. I just use her name for the command and let go of the lead rope. When they begin to stay you can start to test them by making different noises, making sudden movements and saying different words beside for the command you use. After she is not breaking from these steps you can start introducing guns into the mix.

Your dog knowing how to place is a handy tool to have when you are on a hunt. No matter if you are in a make shift blind next to a pond or out in a layout blind in the middle of a field. You will never have to worry about your dog being out of place when she knows how to place. You can start in your house with a dog bed or you can go ahead and start out side. You can use a small platform if you want or you can do what I do and use a mat. All that matters is that they get the idea. Start about three feet away. Have her on a leash and tell her to place, then point at the mat and lead her to it. When she gets to the mat tell her to sit and then reward her with either your praise or a treat. After a couple of sessions you dog should catch on. Then you can increase the distance.

IMG_2490Once you have these two down you can combined them and when you tell her to place you can teach her not to move from that spot till you say it’s ok. Place will come in handy and you won’t have to worry about your dog being in the wrong spot in or outside the blind and you can also use it in the field when you want them to get in their dog blind. Also you will not have to worry about them making the wrong move and scaring your birds. After all that work you should have a well disciplined hunting dog and on next season’s hunting trip your buddies can brag on her and you for how well trained and behaved your dog is.

Jerk Line

It’s a cold, dark, quiet and calm morning before the sun starts to rise.  The weatherman said to expect a 15-20 mph South wind.  While sitting in the blind after setting out a small spread, we start to hear that infamous sound of getting “buzzed” by some Teal.  The anticipation was almost at its capacity as shooting time started.  Only to discover the birds had left and there is no wind.  Not the best start for a hunt!

I’ve been there perhaps too many times.  The birds that had been there before we arrived are now gone and there is no wind to help bring in the birds into the spread.  We start hitting our feeding and social calls and it doesn’t take long till we start seeing a couple Mallards flying directly over our spread.  Before we even raise our guns, they flare and are in another county.  At this point we are determined to make this morning successful.

Our Mojos are out there, teal and mallard, but we are in need of some water-level movement.  If any ducks fly over because they heard someone feeding and all they see is 8-9 decoys sitting still, they aren’t going to want anything to do with us.  So we take our handmade, inexpensive jerk line and strategically place it in water.  Now, we already have several decoys out and adding our jerk line to the mix adds three more.  Depending on what you found when you were scouting, adjust the number of decoys.

A jerk line can be made with just a couple decoys, string or thin rope, a bungee cord, stake or anchor and a lead spool of line.   As pictured below, you have your “anchor”, bungee cord/rope, decoy string to your decoys using snap swivels, then your spool.  I will sometimes switch out one of the three decoys with a feeder using those snap swivels.  This helps to adjust when you are having a slow morning and birds are not committing   Once you learn how to make one, the sky is the limit when it comes to making it to your preference.

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Now, giving life to your new jerk line if fairly easy.  With the anchor or stake placed in the water, string the decoys back towards your blind and begin giving them a few short-quick jerks.  This causes ripples around each decoy mimicking live moment.  These short-quick jerks are great when you see birds coming in, have just passed by or even geese that are flying a little high.  You simply want to make your spread inviting with this movement.  Have fun and happy hunting to ya!