Specialized preparation puts more scaup on the strap
If June seems like an odd time to discuss bluebill hunting, remember this: Those black-and-white rockets will be on the move in 100-some days. As such, it's time to hone your game.
Try these tips to boost your success on 'bills this season.
Be a Hoarder
Decoying scaup — most divers, really — is often a numbers game. Four-dozen blocks along the shoreline of a 100,000-acre lake won't cut it. Accumulate as many diver decoys as possible, and rig them for big water. Even fakes painted like cans, redheads, buffleheads and goldeneyes will decoy bluebills. In a pinch, repaint old mallard decoys into scaup or cans. Remember, old-timers used bleach bottles or milk jugs painted black and white. They realized the importance of large spreads. You should, too.
Find a Fellow Nut
Diver hunting requires a certain addictive, driven mentality. Find a buddy or several who share your passion for black-and-white birds. You'll push each other to new heights. Plus, you can combine your gear — boats, decoys and even layout boats — to form an unstoppable team.
Shoot Bluebills All Summer
No, I'm not advocating poaching. More accurately, shoot bluebill-like targets all summer to sharpen your skills. Concentrate on the middle stations in skeet — Nos. 3, 4 and 5. Those hard crossers really make you swing the gun and follow through. When shooting sporting clays or other clay-target games, emphasize other diver-esque shots, such as fast overhead birds, tricky incomers and sneaky quarter-angles. Off-season shooting practice always pays dividends when the game gets real.
Don't be that guy who tries to fire up the duck boat opening morning and sits dead in the water at the launch. Run your bluebill boat throughout summer to make sure the motor, electronics, kicker motor and trolling motor are operating seamlessly. This is especially critical for big water, which can pose dangerous situations for boaters.
Further, determine how you'll store guns, decoys and other gear. You don't want to trip over your buddy's blind bag when you're tossing long lines in the dark.
Easy on the PTO
Temptations abound. Take a Friday off to go fishing? Sure. But wait — that's eight hours you could spend when a north wind blows and the 'bill flight is in. Use your vacation, PTO and (with apologies to personnel managers) sick days wisely. Make sure you have ample time to go afield during the relatively brief window when diver hunting gets good. Yeah, your boss might dislike seeing your empty chair every day in November. He'll get over it.
Plan Before You Throw
During the off-season, consider where you hunt and how you might configure decoy patterns for specific winds. Even sketch out spreads and fine-tune them with your buddies. Then, you can simply drop blocks without worry when you hunt. This might seem like true geek stuff, but it never hurts to have a rock-solid decoy plan when you're battling waves and spray in the dark.
Sure, you can toss out a few dekes and kill bluebills when fresh birds flood the lake. After about three days, however, those gullible bills have essentially become local ducks and will have settled into specific patterns. You must find them and identify their patterns.
Long before the season, designate a pair of binoculars to keep in your truck. Then get a pair for your blind bag. Resolve to use them often before and during the season. Go a step farther, and scout potentially good glassing areas — high points, boat launches and shoreline roads — for your autumn scouting runs.