In season: Fall
For fast mallard action, you can’t beat shooting over small potholes, usually less than two acres in size. You can identify these often hidden wetlands using aerial photos or by scouting on the ground. Observe how mallards descend into a field—if they drop straight in without circling, they’re generally going into water. Look for potholes in or near feeding fields. Using natural cover or layout blinds, set up on the upwind side; first light is the most productive time. Throw out a dozen floaters and get ready for heart-stopping action. —KEN BAILEY
After the early-season flurry of flushes, pheasants can be notoriously difficult to find, having retreated into the densest cover to escape predators and seek shelter. In many areas, the cattail fringes of wetlands offer the best late-season habitat. It’s challenging to hunt, but pushing your way through, with or without dogs, can produce startling results. Over shallow, open water, roosters generally flush quickly when pressured. If the water is frozen, however, they’re more likely to run, so use blockers to prevent birds from escaping on the ground.
Once a bull has started to assemble his harem of cows, it can be very difficult to lure him away by challenging him with bull bugles. He’ll likely bugle back, however, and once you’ve pinpointed his location, put away your bugle, creep in close and rely on cow calls to convince him to stray from his harem—the prospect of another lonely cow is often too tempting for him to resist. If you’re hunting with a partner, the shooter should set up between the elk herd and the caller to intercept any approaching bull.