Keeping Opening Day Simple
By Ryan Eder
Avery Outdoors, Southfork Retrievers
You’ve heard the KISS model (“Keep it simple, stupid”) before right? It applies to many things, why not opening day? We await opening day with an intense feeling of anticipation and excitement, but sometimes we let it get the best of us with unnecessary overkill on what gear we bring, what we buy and so on. Waterfowl season goes by fast, and may feel short but ultimately there is a time and stage of each season where certain things apply, and certain things do not. I’d like to make a few suggestions about opening day to keep things simple and ultimately help make opening day more enjoyable and successful.
Its early in the season
In most cases, opening day is the start of it all (I have seen years where due to odd weather patterns birds arrive early in massive numbers and opening day yields abnormally high activity and traffic), which means its early. I know you are excited to run all of your new decoys, but you do not need 10 dozen full bodies! Almost always, a few dozen decoys is all you need to look realistic and reasonable for the early time of the season. This leads to #2…
Scouting should be #1 on this list
Scouting always prevails when it comes to strategizing your hunts; whether it is opening day, last day or anywhere in between. Early season tends to be smaller, scattered groups of birds, so as #1 says, make your spread relative to what your scouting reports are telling you. Do not let “retail therapy” drive your setups. Let your observations drive them.
Ready, fire, aim… wait… other way around!
Opening day is not the time to complain about your rusty shooting. Even a few clay target sessions to sharpen up and make sure your shotgun is in safe and proper working condition can save you a lot of problems in the field!
Have the dog tuned up
Similar to #3, opening day isn’t the time to start our dogs conditioning and training for the season. If you aren’t a hunt tester or field trailer that is ok but I highly recommend checking into local AKC (American Kennel Club) or HRC (Hunting Retriever Club) training groups to take advantage of off season training for the hound. If anything, they will be in shape and sharp.
Don’t over call
Just like you do not need a 10 dozen full body spread as a decoy setup on opening day (at least in most cases), you likely will not need to have 4 hunters calling their hearts out every time there is a bird in the sky. Opening day is often at a time where food is plentiful, and birds are not struggling to find food. As a result, they tend to be less vocal. Again, differ to your findings during scouting, but do not overdue the calling and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Too much motion
Motion decoys are kind of like advertising for a business; half works, half doesn’t and you never 100% know which is working. There are times I am convinced that the Mojo decoy helped, and I’ve witnessed birds flare directly because of the Mojo decoy. On opening day, I’d limit motion to 1 or 2 decoys so that you can monitor results closely. This also simplifies the amount of gear to charge up, pack and setup/clean up. Our group loves remote controlled motion decoys because we can easily turn them off in cases we find they are hurting our results rather than helping with minimal effort. This also reduces the number of times we have to get out of our blind and cause disruption in the field (we all know there aren’t birds around until one of us is outside of the blind).
If it doesn’t fit in the shell bag, don’t bring it.
One thing I have learned is that it is much easier to hunt (keep in mind we field hunt a lot out of layout blinds) with only 1 gear bag and a shotgun. I used to bring too much “stuff” and all it does is crowd the layout blind and give you more to keep track of. My shell bag has shells of course, my licenses, head lamp, Ecollar remote for the dog, whistle for the dog and travel size bug spray, bottled water and a small snack. The bag fits behind my headrest and I am comfortable with minimal items crowding my space.
Opening day is only 70 days away as I finish this article, but who’s counting? Being prepared is important, but keeping things simple is also a way to enjoy the fun parts of the hunt, and minimize unnecessary stress and hurdles. As the season progresses and conditions get rougher, hunting gets more competitive and strategy and experience prevail, then you will need more gear and more steps. But on opening day, simplicity will be your ticket.