On the cusp of what's predicted to be some of the best hunting seasons in memory, some of Kansas' most experienced hunters share a few tips.
* Mid-morning can be prime time for hunting ducks and geese at public wetlands.
The birds quickly learn most hunting pressure comes at daylight. Mid-morning also gives a better chance for the wind that's needed to make decoys look more realistic.
—Andy Fanter, Great Bend, averages more than 70 days per season in Kansas and has waterfowl hunted worldwide.
* Great-looking decoys help bring great success, especially on hard-hunted birds. Duck decoys need to be clean with vivid colors. Goose decoys with flocked heads and in a variety of poses work better than old-fashioned shell or faded upright full-bodied decoys. One or two dozen high-quality decoys work better than 10 dozen in poor condition.
—Cody Doane, Gander Mountain. Last season his Lab, Deuce, made more than 1,000 hunting retrieves.
* Match duck decoys to the species you're hunting. Ducks see too many spreads of decoys that are exclusively mallard.
* Ducks are catching on to spinning-wing decoys. They now work best with a remote control. Leave the decoy on to turn a passing flock, then switch it off as the birds near. Switch the spinner off when working geese.
* Flagging is one of the best tools in goose hunting. The movement attracts the attention of passing birds and adds realism to the spread as flocks near.
* Setting a spread of decoys so the ducks or geese approach from the side can greatly decrease chances of the birds seeing you in the blind.
* Good goose calling is more than making the same loud sounds over and over. Watch the birds and call accordingly. Sometimes a few well-timed clucks and moans is more productive than aggressive calling.
* Don't skimp on ammo and chokes. Quality produces quality. When selecting both, keep in mind that while your first shot on decoying birds may be at 20 yards, your second and third could be at 25 and 35 yards. Pick your choke and shot sizes accordingly.
* A 3-D coyote archery target can keep geese from landing in an unwanted area and help force them to where you're hunting.
* Steady retrievers, those that don't break until verbally released by their handlers, will get hunters far more ducks and geese. Dogs that bolt early scare birds and make for longer shots and fewer opportunities. Steady dogs can also be kept away from dangerous situations like roadways and thin ice.
* Flaring geese means they're probably seeing something's amiss. Facemasks and/or staying completely covered in the blind are a must.
Also, routinely police your spread, looking for tipped decoys, shining empty shotgun shells or a easily-seen face.
—Andy Fanter, Cody Doane
* It doesn't take a cannon to kill a pheasant and sometimes smaller can be better. In most hands, a 20-gauge shotgun gets on a flushing bird faster than a 12-gauge to insure more clean kills.
A double barrel with an improved and modified choke is about perfect. Three-inch shells can be used for late-season hunts.
—Mike Hayden, Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks secretary
* Don't be intimidated by standing milo. If the landowner will let you walk the rows, you can get birds out of it. Pheasants love to stay in the standing crop because it offers unlimited food and great protection from predators.
—Rick Tomlinson, Great Bend guide
* Match your shot size to your shotgun's choke. The extra pellets in a load of 7 1/2s will help fill in the spaces from an improved cylinder. Shooting fours will give you the downrange energy you need to get the most from a full choke.
* All bird hunters would be wise to get a fall turkey permit in case one flushes while on a pheasant or quail hunt. Don't be afraid to take a shot at a flying bird, just make sure you aim for the head.
* Scattered broods of young turkeys that flush and scatter amid tall grass will often hold well enough to be hunted like pheasant or quail, with bird dogs and shot on the wing.
* Too many hunters spread too far apart while pheasant hunting. If you can't communicate with the person next to you in hushed tones, get closer. Walking too far apart lets many birds hold tight as you pass. It also puts too much work on hunting dogs trying to cover an entire line of hunters.
* Long shots at pheasants, like past 40 yards, are often a losing proposition. It's often too far to get enough pattern density to insure a clean kill. The sounds of the shots may also spook roosters you otherwise may have gotten to flush within range.
* Speed kills when it comes to pheasant hunting. A three-inch 12-gauge shell loaded with #3 steel shot traveling at 1550 fps is an outstanding load. The load works well from a modified choke.
* Deer activity often decreases as a moon reaches the full stage, but increases significantly as soon as the full moon starts to fade.
—Greg Pickett, Longton guide and hunter with more than 100 bow-kills
* Jerking the trigger is the most common reason for missing deer with a rifle. Often it's caused by past bad experiences with the rifle. Also, don't shoot a rifle with more power than you can handle. A .243 with a squeezed trigger is better than a .300 magnum with a jerked trigger.
* Since it's nearly impossible to not contaminate an area with scent, often the less you hunt an area, the higher your chances of success. Your first time to hunt a spot is usually your best chance at a big buck.
* It's better to take a 200-yard shot with a solid rest than a 50-yard shot off-hand. Use and familiarize yourself with shooting sticks or bipods. The more body contact with something solid the better.
* Deer patterns can change quickly, especially if food sources are changing or there's hunting pressure around. Carry a lightweight stand and climbing sticks into an area, scout it and quietly set up the stand for an immediate hunt and great bowhunting tactic.
* A good .22 rimfire with a scope is a perfect way to become an expert marksman in the hunting fields. The ammo is inexpensive enough that hunters can practice weekly. Fire a few rounds from a good rest to instill confidence, then practice shooting from regular hunting positions at a target about 25 yards away.
* With today's great gear and a solid rest, there's little excuse for missing a deer inside of 250 yards. If you do, admit your mistake and move on. Blaming misses on good equipment or poor conditions doesn't help you get any better.
* You can practice on paper targets all you want, but the only way to get good at making good shots on game is to shoot a lot of game. Shooting whitetail does helps balance the herd, provides good meat and helps your shooting confidence for when a buck of a lifetime strolls into view.