Category Archives: softshell decoys

Big Time Teal Hunters

Green winged teal flock

Teal committed and coming into the decoy spread.

In your lifetime you may never meet a hunter who declares they are a big time teal hunter. Think about it, a big time teal hunter sounds a lot like like a big time bluegill fisherman. Or a devoted carp fly fisher. You meet goose hunters, deer hunters, elk hunters,grouse hunters, pheasant hunters, or the like. I  have yet to meet someone who introduces themselves as a big time teal hunter. Too bad, because teal are a blast and I love hunting them.

Teal are fast and teal are small. Teal are quick to dodge, twisting in the wind and slicing through the decoys like few ducks can. Look at their wings as they drop in from up high, tucked back like little fighter jets. As far as ducks go, teal are reportedly not one of the fastest species. I call B.S. on that statistic. Teal may not fly the fastest 40, but they are quick when it’s game time. Throw in a nice stiff breeze, say 20 mph, and the day quickly turns into the best wingshooting I know of. Divers like blue bills can rip the air like teal, but they don’t dodge like their puddler brethren.

Green winged teal flock

Teal dropping in and gaining speed for a closer look at the decoys.

It’s so satisfying to flash your barrel through a bird and connect when they make their initial supersonic pass through the dekes. It takes a good shot from a hunter to drop one.  Get on him, swing through and slap that trigger and slap it again if you have to and hopefully he goes down! And when you miss you usually laugh and say, “How did he…?! I guess I was behind him.” You know you’re missing as you’re pulling the trigger but you can’t help it.

Green winged teal flock

Teal leaving the spread, minus one.

Picking a bird, or as we say “target acquisition”, out of a decoying flock is usually the problem with teal.Far out from the decoys they line up so nice and straight, but as they start to break down into the spread the chaos begins.They maneuver and drop as they dump speed from their wings, cutting up and rocking side to side. It’s like letting loose a giant covey of quail with a 50 mph head start over the decoys. Plus, the drake green-wings are not always an easy drake to pick out compared to other ducks. Fortunately, teal are accommodating and social, they LOVE to zip through and check out their impostor buddies.

Green winged teal flock

Late season teal zigging and zagging as they come in.

yellow lab with a duck

Sugar retrieving a drake GWT.

So I’ll just come on out and say it, I’m a big time teal hunter. I love ‘em. Just like I love fly fishing for carp in the summer. I’ll take these little guys any day of the week, especially when December and January come around.

duck hunters with ducks

Late season teal success, with a few slow ducks thrown in for good measure.


Ducks in the corn: A video of field hunting for mallards

This is a short video we put together after a few field hunts this fall. Talking to other hunters and outfitters this season confirms what the USFW Service reported this fall,  the duck and goose populations are up!

 


Wishing…

I was sitting right here tomorrow morning!

snow goose spread

A small spring snow goose spread- this is only 500 decoys.


Incoming!

Blue skies, very little wind and  lots of incoming snow geese this weekend.  The only question is when do we get to do it again?!

flock of snow geese

Another flock of spring snow geese finishing to the SoftShells this weekend.


California goose hunt: Both White-fronted and Snow geese

Dave and Steve, along with Steve’s dad, are getting after it in California for both specklebellies and snows. Dave reports the SoftShell snow goose decoys are perfect for the shallow rice fields, and the birds are responding. Thanks for the picture guys , wish I could be there!

California goose hunt

Specklebelly and snow goose hunt in the rice fields of California.


Late season duck hunting tactics: Go lightweight to get to the birds.

Farmington Baby duck hunt

Late season duck hunting

Late season duck hunting is officially under way here in Utah. Early December is when we usually see our first hard freeze of the year . All of the major marshes in the state are frozen to the point where they are impassable with a boat and many of the ducks and geese head either south or west for warmer temps. So is it time to give it up chasing ducks? Hardly! Now is the time to use different tactics and approaches for late season waterfowl. Food sources and open water become even more important than ever, but it”s also more difficult to get to the birds because of the ice. Setting yourself up to travel to the birds with lightweight decoys and gear is essential for success.

We are lucky enough to have a 100-day season to hunt waterfowl in Utah,which is great because we get to hunt in so many different weather conditions. The last 40 days of the season involve freezing and thawing periods, which present a ton of opportunities for us.  I enjoy this time period for many reasons. First, there is a lot less competition in the marsh from other duck hunters. I would guess that at least 95% of the duck hunters in the state have quit chasing ducks and geese by by the time the ice sets in. Second, even though duck numbers are down, the birds that remain are mature, colorfully plumed birds. Picking out your drakes during late season hunts is as easy. Greenheads and pintails glow this time of year! Third, it takes years of hunting and chasing these late season birds to really figure them out, it is physically demanding and hard hunting but it’s extremely rewarding. And finally, the best flight of the day usually occurs between noon and 5:00 PM, which is really hard to beat.

Late season sprig

The tactics we use are straight forward enough, which includes a lot of scouting, glassing for birds, and looking for the water that remains open in the area you are hunting. This sounds obvious, but it can come in the form of culverts, warm springs, melting mud edges, creeks, and rivers. We also focus on the areas birds are coming to feed in, not roosting water. You need to keep the birds in the area so don’t bust the roost!

Late season duck hunt, SoftShells in the shallows

As far as food sources, there are some key food types the birds feed on in the marshes, some of which may be new to you if you’ve  never hunted the state before. These include midge larvae, alkali bull rush seeds, salicornia plants (pickle weed), and the remaining pond algae.

The hunt we really take advantage of involves two food sources that come together for the birds when the sun starts to melt the ice at midday- midge larvae and alkali bullrush seeds.  The midges are bright red in color, and they become active when the sun warms the mud and melts the ice, and the ducks really take advantage of them. In addition to the midges, the melting ice makes it easier for the ducks to access and feed on the alkali bullrush seeds as the edges of small open water areas open up even more . We hunt these areas in coffins or with lay-out blinds in combination with our SoftShell Decoys:, the cover is typically very low and the water very shallow. Decoys on a stake work perfectly in this set up. Experience has shown 2 to 3 dozen decoys is enough, being on the “x” is the key. I’ve also stopped bringing spinning wing decoys on these hunts because they don’t seem to work as well in the late season- they’re not worth the weight to haul out with us. It’s not uncommon for us to walk over a mile to get to our hunting spot, which is why having lightweight gear is so important.

Max walks across the ice with Ruby and a pair of pintails.

So have you given up for the year? Too cold or too far to walk? For selfish reasons I hope so, but I think you miss out on some of the most rewarding hunts of the year.


Snow Goose Hunting with SoftShell Decoys

Over the past few months I have come to the realization that I’m not a very good photographer/videographer. It’s more difficult than I imagined, mainly because I don’t take the time to set up my shots and locations properly. I have great intentions but as soon as I hear wings ripping the morning sky or the far off call of a goose I am done! My priorities are a little off, so to speak. I like to have a shotgun in my hands instead of a camera- but I’m learning.

The following video is my initial attempt at putting together a promotional video for SoftShell Decoys. The first part of the video is a snow goose hunt filmed in a pea field with my dad Dave, brother Dan and friend/local farmer Doug. We used just 350 SoftShell snow goose decoys for the hunt. The wind was howling, steady 30-35 mph with gusts up to 45-50 mph!  It was a great hunt, the video doesn’t really do it justice. I tried to set up the camera behind the shooters on a tripod but the wind kept tipping it over. Most of the shots the guys took started at 15-20 yards, and with the high winds the birds would flare and rocket out of the spread in seconds- it was great fun to watch.

I think the next thing I need to do is sink some money into a decent camera, like the Sony my friend Jeremy suggested. Any other suggestions on camera/video gear would be appreciated! Thanks for watching and all the support I’ve already had for SoftShell Decoys.


Scouting: Setting up the hunt

snow geese

Snow geese leaving the roost, this is a good place to start.

Scouting and setting up a waterfowl field hunt for the next day can be a time consuming grind at times- hours of driving dirt roads, looking through binoculars while following flocks of ducks and geese from the roost, and finding land owners that are busy with harvest and farm work. Some days it’s easy and we find the field we want right away. However it turns out, it’s the necessary effort we put in to ensure a quality hunt for the next day.

snow geese

Snow geese in the field, this is the spot!

We look at many fields, judging each by the number and species of birds using them, the type of cover and food in the field, the proximity of the field to the roost, wind direction, access, everything! Everything must be taken into account; you can’t take this part of the hunt for granted or try to shortcut it, you’ll surely get burned the next day by something you’ve overlooked.

What is our ideal field you may ask? Good cover (high stubble, corn is the best) we can stuff our blinds with, dry, untilled, easy access, loaded with the birds we are chasing for that particular hunt (darks, whites, or ducks), and at least a mile from the roost. If all of these variables come together for us the next day we are probably going to have a good hunt. When you lock up one of these fields that has all of the right variables coming together it makes it tough to sleep the night before the hunt!

snow goose, blue goose, Ross's goose

A sample of the results: snow goose, blue goose, Ross's goose.


SoftShell duck decoys are quick and easy to put out

How long does it normally take you to put out your decoys when you hunt? I know what it’s like to unload a trailer load of full body waterfowl decoys, it’s a pain in the butt! This past weekend, I thought about how great it was to put out my SoftShell Decoys because it was so quick. It took me just as long to put out 15 floaters next to my 4 dozen SoftShells

You can quickly put out 4 dozen mallards in about 5 minutes, or about the same time it takes for your partner to put the Mojo together. All you need to do is grab 10-20 decoys at a time from your SoftShell Decoy carrier and hold them by the stakes. Doing it this way is a real time saver because you don’t need to walk back to the trailer/truck/4-wheeler to keep grabbing a couple of decoys.

Grab 10-20 decoys at a time

To hunt with SoftShell Decoys you pull the decoy cover over the top of the support rib (backbone) to give the decoy its unique shape.  Pull a decoy out of your bundle and grab the middle of the support rib, like in the picture below.Pull the cover over the decoy. It should easily slide over, not too tight.

Hold the decoy by the backbone and grab the cover.

Pull the cover over the decoy, now it's ready to put into the ground

Adjust the head how you would like (preener, looking left or right, or forward), grab the stake and shove them into the ground. Done, time to hunt.

Do the reverse when you’re done hunting, pull the decoys out of the ground by grabbing the middle of the body (not the head) and fold them flat by pulling the cover back over as you go along. You can easily pick up a couple dozen at a time. That’s it, pick up is as quick as putting them out. And, the decoys are ready for storage because you’ve been smart enough to pull the cover back over as you picked them up!

Both putting out and picking up a spread of SoftShell Decoys is very quick and easy. The more you do it, the quicker it will go. I like to put my decoys into their carriers in offsetting bundles of 10, which helps me in both deployment and storage. Good luck and good hunting!


Waterfowl decoy trends: Lightweight and compact

How do you store your duck and goose decoys? And what does it take for you to get them to where you’re hunting? If you’re anything like me, I like a lot of ‘em. With full body ducks and geese, plus floaters, my decoy shed at home simply isn’t big enough any more. My hunting partners and I also have a large cargo trailer full of decoys for our duck and goose hunting. It has always amazed me we can get as many full body goose decoys in that trailer as we do. It definitely takes some creative stacking for us to get all of them in- it’s all about closing the doors at the right time! The facts are these: full body duck and goose decoys require both a lot of storage space and trailer space to hunt with.

Storage profile of the SoftShell mallards

These new SoftShell Decoys we’ve developed help to solve some of your space issues with decoy storage and travel. I realize I’m tooting my own horn here, but they are really nice to store and travel with. They break down into a thin packable profile, as you can see in this picture. You can pack 50 of our duck decoys into a bag that measures 20”x20”x10”. How many full body duck decoys can you get into that space? Answer: Not many! Our 50-pack is smaller than the commonly used 6-slot bag used to carry just 6 full body duck decoys. I know full body decoys have their place out there in the waterfowl hunting world, but there are alternatives to look at for your field decoys!

We do everything we can to get 125 full body goose decoys, 100 mallard shells, blinds, and assorted gear into our trailer for our hunts. The SoftShell goose carrier pictured below has 100 snow goose decoys in it. The bag is 24”x20”x16” in size, a far cry from the trailer space needed for full body goose decoys.

100 snow goose decoys in one bag

Going lightweight and compact has advantages. You can pack enough snow goose decoys in the back of your truck (without a cargo trailer) to make up a respectable spread. If you like using trailers, check out the new smaller trailers on the market today, like the Space Trailers my old friends the Olson’s have come out with in Minnesota. They are perfect for this set up, a small lightweight option that’s really easy and economical to tow. Plus, it’s just plain easier to move both the decoys and trailer around (yes, I am feeling a little older these days!).  The way we waterfowl hunt is changing all the time, and I think compact and lightweight decoys are one of the trends becoming more popular all the time. What do you think?


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