by Naomi K. Shapiro
Where you place your duck blind is important if you want to come home with more than grimy boots. You can't just plop down in any old place and put up a blind. A little thought, knowledge about what you're hunting, and some common sense is all that's needed.
There are two different ways to set up a duck blind. A dry land set, over some type of crop field, or a water set up associated with a river, lake, stream or reservoir.
Where you set up depends on the type of duck you want to hunt. Different ducks taste differently, so when hunters target a specific type of duck, it's usually because they like the taste of that particular species. Guide Phil Schweik says the best tasting ducks, and the ones he personally prizes most are mallards and wood ducks. Dry land mallards hang around crop fields--mainly corn. So typically your blind will always face into the wind, as the ducks always land into the wind; and of course you want to make sure that your blind setup is not in the direction of the good farmer's house, who allowed you to hunt his land, or towards any type of potential human population areas. Set up in the corn. As we said in a previous article, farmers will often leave a couple of rows of corn uncut, or you can use a layout blind (a box where you lie flat on your back in it, and get up to shoot), or along field edges. You can build a makeshift blind out of cornstalks, chicken wire and 2 x 4s–or as some do--make an elaborate blind that has a covered top, so that you can pop out of it to fire. Some of the blinds even have little trap doors for their dogs to run out of.
Wood ducks are unique. Like turkeys they can land and roost in trees--and we believe they're about the only ducks who do. They often feed on acorns, and identify with water. So set up on water edges that front trees--as in "woods." The wood ducks will come into these areas.
So much for land sets. Water sets--again we're looking at the species of ducks we're hunting--are very different than land sets. You can get mallards and wood ducks from water sets. These ducks are looking for a place to land, so seek out feeder streams, water cuts, or small bays off of main lakes. Target points that form when the feeder stream comes in, or the bay opens up into the main lake. The mallards and wood ducks will fly the edges and look for little protected areas off of these points, because there's wind cover and calm water. So you set up your blind up on these points as an ambush. The wood ducks and mallards both are coming into these coves, because there's lots of food in these coves. Both will find forage on the surface (and yes, wood ducks eat more than just acorns!), things along the shorelines, and small aquatic plants.
Now let's talk about the "divers"--ducks like bluebills and canvasbacks. These are species that Phil Schweik says are fun to hunt, but at least to him, don't taste that good--they're carnivores. "Divers" go after fish and minnows. So set up your decoys to cover open water and your blind to hunt and shoot over the main body of water. You'll look for water that's conducive for these ducks to dive for fish--it can be deep, and it can be shallow. Some hunters set up on sandbars, or along narrow points that extend out into the main lake--OR, just a non-descript location along shorelines where shallow water has weeds and reeds, where minnows or small fish will locate.
Some of these diving ducks are real smart--but not THAT smart. Just stay out of their line of sight. Water-related blinds can be right out in the open, with a high back on them. They will probably have a bench seat, and the hunters tuck down and call the ducks. The blinds are encased with brush, twigs and cattails which helps the blind blend in with the background. All of this, along with proper decoy placement will usually provide success.
From this article, you may get the impression that placing a duck blind is a complex task. It really isn't. It's a combination of common sense, and knowing the type of duck you're hunting--their habits and their habitat. Variables exist of course, and there's no one "correct way" of doing things; but, experience is a great teacher, and, after a mistake or two (which will happen), you'll find, as with any other hunting, your rate of success will increase exponentially.