More than simply a big game hunter, you are a hunter. If it’s in season, your blood is boiling. Waterfowling offers fast action and a great opportunity to share the hunt with family and friends. In fact, if you were looking to introduce a significant other or youngster to hunting, you would be hard pressed to find a better sport.
The season is already opened in many areas; however, your geographic location in relation to the flyway you plan to hunt will determine your best action. In case you have not already tuned up for ducks, here is your action plan.
Last season’s notes are the best starting point for planning. If you kept a waterfowling journal, review last duck season objectively. If you did not, offer to be a pal and clean your buddy’s man cave or wherever he stores his journal; it is cloak and dagger time. Review areas that produced just before or after a storm front, or when the weather was calm. Recall wind directions necessary for particular pit blinds. If you did not keep a journal last year, invest a few bucks in a notebook and pen…
Take notice of the river stage readings. How do they affect the hunting in your bottomland hardwoods? This, along with all of the variable data you’ll collect and consider, will be deadly for ducks and geese in the coming seasons. If you cannot get out to hunt or collect the data yourself, look to local clubs, forums and government services to collect your data.
Just like a garage band, you can gather up your hunting companions for a calling session. It is a great time to work on the decoys and brush up your calling. When one person calls, the others critique the tone, pitch and sequence. At a minimum, know the four basic calls: feeding, comeback, hail and quack.
Fire Up the Boat
Whether you opt for an outboard or a mud motor, it has to run when hit the water. Slip a muff over the water intake, grab a hose and crank it over. Repeat this process two or three days in a row just to be sure it’s running properly. Of course if your plan is to jump or pass shoot the ducks, grab a cup of coffee and your cell phone. You’ll want to tease your buddy about the time he is spending tuning up his boat.
The season is hard on decoys and sitting packed away can be just as rough. Grab a few buddies, whether or not they hunt and have a decoy repair party. A few libations, burgers and in no time you’ll be telling lies and tuning up your decoys. Remember to repair holes from shotgun pellets, touch up the paint and replace missing anchor weights and cords.
Practice, Practice, Practice
The only thing worse than missing a coveted band, or a bird that is uncommon for your area, is tanking an easy shot. Well, being outshot by the wife, but I do not want to go there… Recalibrate your brain at the clays course. Imagine that orange disc is really a ‘can or sprig and dust ‘em. A few dollars spent at the local trap and skeet club can pay dividends. A few dollars for a hand thrower and a box of clays isn’t a bad idea either. Having your own equipment is a great way to spend some time with your hunting buddy and even better time when that buddy is family.
Work your Dog
Few things are as beautiful as watching a dog work. However, an off-season of the kids feeding your four-legged hunting companion doughnuts on the couch will not improve your season. Take your retriever out for a few days of good ‘ol exercise. The dog will get plenty of retrieves and a chance to stretch and work the kinks out.
Hopefully you already have some favorite spots in mind. Jump on the Internet and look for forums dedicated to your flyway. Virtually track activity and flights to plan your prime days. Watch weather reports and gauge how it will affect flight patterns, when timber will flood, an so on.
Look through your hunting records or find a buddy who deer hunts. Where are the acorns? Soybean and cotton fields won’t be much help, so you should know where they are to avoid them. However, a good cornfield later in the season may pay dividends.
As an outdoor writer, I have been known to use the excuse that I often “ammo test,” lest I would be accused of sky busting. Either way, there are days when you can’t miss and those where you could swear you were shooting loads filled with rice. Stock up and carry an extra box or two to the blind. The extra weight is more than worth your piece of mind. You’ll also be the hero if a buddy needs a few extra shells.
Best of all, stock is rising and prices have dropped, so now is a great time to stock up.
Nothing juices up a hunt like new gear. Treat yourself—you can always dust it off and drop it in your stocking or slip it under the tree later. Choke tubes, goose calls, pintail whistles, decoys or camo gear, and do not forget about your dog. When was the last time you decked Rover out with a new vest, kennel, collar, bed or bumper toy?
I have seen it happen more than once. You get to the blind only to find that someone forgot a license, stamp or to sign it. Wardens do not give chances, so check and double check yourself then look over your buddy’s stuff and remember safety, safety, safety…
Looking for a place to hunt? Find a National Wildlife Refuge near you. Many of these refuges offer excellent public hunting.
Do you have a duck or goose hunting checklist? Share your tips and stories in the comment section.