Landing zones – Though creating defined landing zones is often a favorite decoy pattern for hunters, it only takes observing a raft of puddle ducks one time to realize they will plop down just about anywhere — regardless of an available zone. Focus on replicating a relaxed group of loafing and feeding ducks at your favorite hole, and the birds should present plenty of shooting opportunities.

Straight from the horse’s, …err, duck’s mouth – There are numerous online resources for listening to nearly all varieties of ducks and geese in their natural setting without leaving home. Sound files are readily available online from the Audubon Society and YouTube, so you can listen to birds calling and work on replicating their sounds before heading to the blind. 

Appeal to the locals – Though plenty of ducks of all species are killed over mallard blocks every season, hunters should play to the crowd in their specific area. A spread of only greenheads in coastal Southeast Louisiana, for example, typically won’t be as productive as the same numbers set in gadwall, teal and maybe some pintails for visibility. If you’re new to an area, take the time to scout to see what species are around and plan your spread accordingly. 

Decoy wildcard – One other factor that Haydel touts as an early season advantage is the use of coot decoys. Coots are usually among the earliest of arrivals, and they always congregate where the food is, helping arriving ducks to go straight to the buffet line. 

Take your time – In the hustle to get to the blind opening morning and get everything situated, decoys and cover might be taken care of in haste. Attend to these items the day before, or arrive at the blind extra early for opening morning. Once the sun rises, hunters often find that the cover wasn’t as good as initially thought and decoys are out of place from pre-dawn tosses.