I often look back to the era of the Super Mags, Mags, G&H Henrietta’s as the good old days of field hunting. When mallards had no problem dive bombing a spread of cut keel floaters and yes those ugly as sin Goose Chair stuck right in the middle.. The evolution of waterfowl hunting equipment is evolving so fast it makes my head spin, but what really makes me wonder is why are the birds cluing in so fast on today’s spreads?
Operating a fairly significant waterfowl lodge in Canada is an absolute blessing when it comes to fresh birds straight from the northern breeding areas, but there are points in our season when we have conditioned birds.. What we’re really noticing is that the birds are spread shy much quicker than the days before layouts. Why? Lots of really good theory’s come from the Birdtail guide crew and all hold water, but the one constant everyone agrees on is the layout blind. We feel birds know them and look for them regardless of the profile height / width, color, brand and how well they are stubbled or not stubbled. It’s the red flag of field hunting conditioned birds.
We have experimented with all sorts of spreads and positioning of the blinds within the spreads. For a while we tried not being on the X and forcing the birds to different areas on the field so we can utilize the topography to our advantage for hiding the shadows the layouts cast when the sun is on the horizon. Moving the X still works but we’ve found it becomes more of a decoy volume game, which is not always attainable or suited for every hunt. Generations ago the answer was using low quality Tyvex bag style decoy to create the high volume spread which did hide the blinds well, but when you’re chasing today’s wary birds it’s not as good of an option as it used to be. We’ve found that today’s conditioned birds are constantly scanning for layouts and looking right through our high quality decoys spreads. What we have learned is wary birds need quality decoys much like a DOA Decoy to commit consistently, and the layout blinds must not be in the spread.
Mind you there are a few sub species of Canada goose that are not as devoted to surviving the harvest much like the Eastern Prairie Population (EPP). The EPP goose is very susceptible decoy spreads as well as being very vocal which makes for awesome hunting and filming, but EEP is only in select flyways. In our neck of the world we hunt Lesser Canada’s, Greaters and millions of Mallards and Pintails with a healthy population of Snows , but with a small amount of pressure they seem to tune into the game must faster than the old days of the Goose Chair and over sized shell decoys. There are so many decoy companies now producing life like decoys with full body flocking and color schemes that almost look better than the real thing, so what has NOT changed?? The layout blinds..
So what’s the solve for the layout blind? Not competently sure yet, but the one tactic we have adopted is selecting fields with more natural cover that’s near the original X.
Using layouts in natural cover can work well plus it allows for more of an upright shooting position. More often than not we are cutting natural cover and building more of a big game style ground blind around each hunter.. Scouting for birds and natural cover has absolutely increased the complexity of our scouting missions for sure, but the alternative is watching conditioned birds flare at 150 yards or more.. Our theory when hunting conditioned birds is that they know the shape and shadows of the layout blinds but can not memorize the the natural cover detail in the field.
Here’s another twist, today’s migratory population which consists of many year classes and the average life span does not surpass the era of the layout blind.. It’s their common fear object since day one.
Birdtail Waterfowl Inc