Duck hunting is a fun, exciting, and very tiring sport. Whether hunting with family, friends, wife, or father, just being out in the field or in the wetlands with them enjoying nature is what hunting is about. Duck hunting is challenging and there are many techniques to use when hunting waterfowl. Like our previous deer hunting tips article, we decided to extend it by creating a list of duck hunting tips and things to consider when you’re out in the field or wetlands.
Where to hunt?
There are many different places where you will find ducks congregating, but one of the main ingredients here is water. One of your options include a flooded field. Some farmers will pump water in one of their empty fields once all their beans or corn has been cut to allow a place for ducks to come and feed. If you’re hunting in a flooded field, you probably won’t need a boat or canoe to set up your decoys and retrieve your birds. I would recommend getting a good ground blind like the Bunker Blind from Drake. If you have a ditch bank near your flooded field, you can always lay down in it. The best way to get access to a flood field is to drive around and ask. Get in your truck, drive out in the country, and ask a farmer if he’s seen any ducks. You would be amazed at how nice they actually are to let you hunt on their farmland.
If you don’t have access to a field, another area to find ducks are sloughs that are running along the side of creeks and rivers. You can usually spot them fairly easily when you see all the cattails along the side of the water. Ducks find refuge in this area where the cattails are blocking a lot of the wind. They will sometimes rest and feed here all day long. You will need a canoe or boat depending on the depth of the slough you are hunting. The most important thing to remember is safety. When in a canoe or boat, you can easily fall over the boat and into the water. If you have a large set of waders on, imagine those filling up with water to make it that much heavier. They now have waders that are supposed to keep water from coming in. If you’re going to be in water over your head, wear a life jacket.
Personally, I’ve never hunted on the river. I’ve always been in either the creeks, sloughs or flooded fields. If duck hunting on the river, look for the islands and sandbars. Those are usually great places for ducks to land and have a wide view of the area to feel safe while feeding.
Another option is to hunt on public land on big water. Ducks love to raft up on lakes and reservoirs. Throw out a spread of 100 or so decoys making sure to leave an opening for the ducks to land. The only downside to public hunting is you might not be able to hunt the best spot where you want to hunt. The lake can sometimes be overwhelmed with duck hunters during the waterfowl season and it may be hard finding a spot. Don’t be discouraged though, the lake is a great spot to hunt and I highly recommend checking it out.
What gun and shell size to use?
While it’s best to check your State Regulations Hunting & Guidelines first, I would recommend using a 12 gauge pump action shotgun. Some people prefer 2 3/4″ shells and some use 3″ shells. For both, waterfowl and turkey, I prefer using a 3 1/2″ shell. I shoot a Benelli Super Nova and the 3 1/2″ shells seem to shoot and pattern the best for me. It might be a little bit more recoil, but nothing I can’t handle. The shells I shoot are Winchester Xpert Hi-Velocity #3 3 1/2 shells. There are many shells on the market. You have to find the right combination for you, your gun and the ducks. There is no one set solution. It’s different for everybody and every set up.
Another tip I want to share is to make sure your gun is clean. I went out dove hunting earlier this season and my gun kept jamming up. Come to find out it just need a little cleaning and some oil to make it slide and eject the shell more easily.
What should I wear?
It depends on where you’re hunting. If you’re hunting in a creek, river or slough where you need a boat or canoe, then there’s no need for you to be wearing waders up to your chest. If you’re hunting flooded fields or timber, then you might want to invest in a pair of good waders like the Drake Eqwaders. Otherwise, you just need a nice pair of insulated boots to keep you warm and a pack of Hot Hands.
What decoys and spread to use?
Setups vary from place to place. If you’re hunting in a deeper creek or river, make sure you have heavier weights attached to your decoys. Hunting over a flooded field or creek and you shouldn’t need as much weight. As far as the size of your spread, it can vary from place to place as well. If you’re hunting in some flooded timber and you are hunting from a boat, you should set about a dozen decoys out. Make sure to look up and see if you can see an opening in the trees. If you can’t, then the ducks won’t come in to you. I usually find that a small spread of 1 – 2 dozen decoys is fine. If you have a Mojo or something that can produce small splashes or waves, then definitely use that too.
One of the most common decoy spreads is the “U” pattern headed directly towards the wind. The ducks will be circling and eventually fly down into the wind in the middle of your spread. I’ve also set up about 1 – 2 dozen decoys just along the edge of a flooded field in no specific pattern and had success. There’s also a guy I know using just 6 mallard decoys that flap it’s feet to make splashes in the water and he always has great results.
How to call in ducks?
I’m not a championship caller by all means, but I know how to call ducks into shooting range. There are many different types of calls you should know about ducks including quack, greeting, feeding, hail, and many more. If you don’t master any other call, you should at least get the basic quack call learnt if you want a duck to come into your spread.
I could write a book on all the different duck hunting scenarios, gear to have and all the decoy patterns you can use, so not everything is covered in this article. These are some of the basic tips of duck hunting. Hopefully, this will get you started in this exciting sport!