Ask the Wild Guy
by George Visger, "The Wild Guy"
On an early November day in 1987, I was duck hunting on the Butte Creek Farms spread in the Sacramento Valley when I probably should have been out striper or sturgeon fishing. But archery and duck hunting are two passions of mine, and both have been known to short-circuit logical thinking on more than a few occasions.
I had taken a drake wood duck a few minutes into shooting time as is my custom. The woodies always seem to be the first scouts coming off of a night roosting on Butte Creek, heading over to forage in the adjacent rice fields. An hour into the hunt, I heard the unmistakable call of a single lonesome greenhead cruising west of me in the dense fog. I made the kill with a single shot.
Once the fog burned off, the remainder of the day had been spent watching a large grind of specs dump into a field on the north side of Butte Creek about a half-mile northeast of my position. I could see large flights of sprig cruising at nosebleed altitudes.
I was set up about where blind number four is currently located. This was years prior to any other blinds on the Butte Creek Farms property. My spread of 29 decoys consisted of a mixed bunch of mallard, sprig and widgeon. The 29 decoys was not a magic number for me, but it was all I could fit in my decoy bag.
I set my blind layout by lying lengthwise on top of a berm and pulling the rice stalks over me as cover, using my decoy bag as a pillow.
I rearranged my decoys several times after the fog burned off. Each time I walked out to rearrange my dekes, a flock of sprig would dive bomb me while I was standing out in the open.
I have always been a firm believer in movement attracts waterfowl. I had devised my own motion decoys years before the electronic versions, which I personally don’t care much for. My method consisted of tying a string to the keel of a drake sprig (I also like to have as much white in my spread as possible), and stomping the anchor weight into the mud.
I would then yank on the string to create ripples in the decoys on calm days such as this. Every now and then my anchor weight would break loose, and I would be forced to wade out and rearrange the spread. After about the fourth consecutive dive bombing attack by the sprig during my decoy rearrangement session, I thought there had to be more than just bad timing or movement that pulled the birds in.
I surveyed the layout, my brain churning with questions. What else could I do to entice the birds down from the stratosphere after my rearrangement sessions? I stood up on the rice berm and it dawned on me, turbid water! Each time I waded through my spread, I had stirred up sediment from the bottom and my decoys were bobbing in chocolate-looking water when the rest of the field was clear. Not only the ripples from movement but also the very obvious change in water color drew the birds in like a magnet.
That also explained why after a few minutes, the attraction faded. I ended up bagging my limit that afternoon on a day when ninety percent of the members had left before noon. 22 years later, I still book afternoon hunts in early November on many of the Wilderness Unlimited properties at a time when most hunters are chasing pheasants. I usually find I have the properties completely to myself, which allows me to work birds in close and personal for good clean kills.