River Hunting

Duck Hunting for puddlers like Mallards, Sprig (Pintails), Black ducks, Widgeons, Woodducks, Teal, and other ducks.

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River Hunting

Postby killnkyle » Wed Sep 19, 2012 1:00 pm

I have recently found a new area to hunt but it is on a river with a decent amount of current and I'm looking to find out whether or not my decoy spread should be different than if I was hunting back/still water. The river itself is about 50 yards wide and the water is currently 3 feet deep on the edges going to about 9-10 feet in the middle. I haven't done much hunting on moving water so and any tips would be great. Thanks for the help
When you have shot one bird flying you have shot all birds flying. They are all different and they fly in different ways but the sensation is the same and the last one is as good as the first.
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Re: River Hunting

Postby AWOTIS » Wed Sep 19, 2012 1:13 pm

wear a life vest even in the shallows.. or use a fishing pole with a heavy weight and bobber to retrive birds..

with your decoys if you put them in some current they will have the appearence of moving due to the ripples.
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Re: River Hunting

Postby wtrfwl havoc » Wed Sep 19, 2012 1:56 pm

Put big wieghts on your dekes. I hunt the river quite a bit and if there is current like you are talking. You will have to make your own weights you cant buy heavy enough weights from the store. Trust me I have lost a lot of dekes lol. The store bought weights will hold for a lil bit then about 30 min in to the hunt one by one you see them floating off lol.
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Re: River Hunting

Postby KwaKAddict » Tue Sep 25, 2012 2:48 pm

I grew up hunting on a small river, not quite deep but when the water is high it can still be dangerous. The only species of duck that land in the river are woodducks, so I dont know if that is what your targeting. I would usually jump woodies and in order to retrieve them I would follow them down to the nearest bend and drag them in. When my father and I would use decoys, we tied them all together and for a weight in the front we used a heavy grappling like object that my dad welded together. The decoys would look like they are swimming up the current. A golf ball retriever works perfectly with a hook on the end to retreive the ducks.
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Re: River Hunting

Postby wtrfwl havoc » Tue Sep 25, 2012 3:36 pm

KwaKAddict wrote:I grew up hunting on a small river, not quite deep but when the water is high it can still be dangerous. The only species of duck that land in the river are woodducks, so I dont know if that is what your targeting. I would usually jump woodies and in order to retrieve them I would follow them down to the nearest bend and drag them in. When my father and I would use decoys, we tied them all together and for a weight in the front we used a heavy grappling like object that my dad welded together. The decoys would look like they are swimming up the current. A golf ball retriever works perfectly with a hook on the end to retreive the ducks.


I dont know where you hunt but that is absolutely false! Here in the midwest when things freeze up the river is the best hunting that can be experienced anywhere in the U.S. in my opinion. Mallards, widgeon, gadwall, you name it. Virtually every puddle duck congregate in massive number on the big rivers :hammer:
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Re: River Hunting

Postby muskrat24 » Tue Sep 25, 2012 5:33 pm

I agree with wtrfowl havoc. There is a section of river that I trap that I'm always jumping mallards and geese off've later in the season.
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Re: River Hunting

Postby noweil » Tue Sep 25, 2012 7:28 pm

2011-12-26 07.51.53.jpg


Here is how I run decoys on the river. There are 2 boat anchors with a line between them and a second line tied on only one end to the most upstream anchor. I clip the decoys to the main lines with long line clips. If the curret is really running I have to switch to decoys with a narrow rounded breat on them.
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Re: River Hunting

Postby aboz » Wed Sep 26, 2012 1:03 pm

I like to make a J formation with the majority of the birds along the bank, that way you give them a pocket close to the middle, but not too far out. But just see where they like landing, and observe the wind.
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Re: River Hunting

Postby BBK » Thu Sep 27, 2012 12:14 am

River hunting is quite a bit different than pothole or marsh hunting. In current birds swim right next to shore where there is little current, or when they are out in the water they swim in a straight line. Don't make groups of ducks when hunting current like that, make small strings and then a mixed group up by and on the shore if you can. Put most of your decoys along the shoreline, most ducks just loaf around the shorelines of rivers, they dont actually swim out in the middle.
Why do I shoot 3.5" for geese? Because they don't make a 4" yet!
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Re: River Hunting

Postby BBK » Thu Sep 27, 2012 12:17 am

muskrat24 wrote:I agree with wtrfowl havoc. There is a section of river that I trap that I'm always jumping mallards and geese off've later in the season.


I also agree. Even this time of year you will find plenty of mallards, pintails, widgeon, teal and woodies along rivers/creeks. With the drought throughout the midwest, our rivers are about the only thing holding birds.. and our rivers arent much of a river anymore, more like small creeks and lots and lots of sand.
Why do I shoot 3.5" for geese? Because they don't make a 4" yet!
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Re: River Hunting

Postby noweil » Thu Sep 27, 2012 10:27 am

I have to disagree about putting the decoys by shore. In my picture my farthest decoy is probably 25 yard out from the blind. I want my decoys out from shore for good visibility. The ducks and geese drop right into the decoys. I have had the spot in the picture since 2001 and have killed lots of birds, both ducks and geese there. I have hunted the same way on many other rivers and streams for many years. I agree that you will see the ducks up close to the bank after they are on the water. Even when I am not hunting and just watching birds, they land out away from the bank. Then they swim up next to shore. I use goose decoys with maybe 2-3 duck decoys between the blind and the goose floaters. The ducks land with they goose decoys almost everytime. The best duck decoys I own are my goose floaters. The 4 decoy spread That I attached a picture of has killed hundreds of birds. Both ducks and geese.
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2011-11-27 09.42.41.jpg
CRP was responsible for 25.7 million additional ducks produced in the U.S. Prairie Pothole Region during 1992-2003.  Source DU.
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Re: River Hunting

Postby BBK » Thu Sep 27, 2012 12:12 pm

Well of course you want a couple out so they can be seen, but dont put a big mass or a V or a J out in a river, it wont look natural at all. Birds dont swim in a wide group in current, they swim single file.. or several groups of birds single file that might look like a group. There is no such thing as a "spread" when current hunting. Just put a few birds out in the river in a line (5 or 6), then another group a little bit away in a line(5 or 6) then a few up along the shore and on the shore if you can. That is the most natural spread, and often wont need any calling. If your decoys look natural the ducks will drop right in. a V, J, X, or U does not look natural and that is why you need to call and call and call to finish birds, unless they are stupid birds. Most of my birds each year are seen heading up or down the river, and as soon as they see the spread they lock and drop right down in, then are roasted at 20 yards 5 feet off the water.
Why do I shoot 3.5" for geese? Because they don't make a 4" yet!
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Re: River Hunting

Postby aboz » Thu Sep 27, 2012 11:14 pm

when i say j its not like a pond J. you have a line, or a few down the bank. Generally where you see birds. The a few in the middle, and a few up rive from the middle ones, but inbetween the bank and the middle. Another thing to consier is river direction. In a bend, or tight curve it's different. Good luck this year :thumbsup:
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Re: River Hunting

Postby noweil » Fri Sep 28, 2012 6:33 am

"Birds dont swim in a wide group in current, they swim single file."

I guess the hundreds of birds we kill in the decoys each season never read "your" rules.

There is more than one way to set decoys and be successful. My little spreads in the current with no decoys along shore work good for us from September- January. Have a good season.
CRP was responsible for 25.7 million additional ducks produced in the U.S. Prairie Pothole Region during 1992-2003.  Source DU.
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Re: River Hunting

Postby killnkyle » Sat Sep 29, 2012 9:48 am

Thanks for the help guys! As far as the different strategies go, I try to remember something my grandfather taught me, " There is never an always or a never in hunting." So, with that in mind I'll give all your ideas a try and see how things go. Thanks again
When you have shot one bird flying you have shot all birds flying. They are all different and they fly in different ways but the sensation is the same and the last one is as good as the first.
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Re: River Hunting

Postby woodduck31 » Sun Sep 30, 2012 9:24 am

Kyle, your grandpa is a very wise man. There is no one size fits all when it comes to duck hunting across the country. There is no one size fits all day to day on the river here either. You can make generalities about what you most normally see, but those change fairly often too. Here, as a general rule on the snake river, most birds are in the middle of the river and mixed side to side loosely, most often staying away from the bank a good 30 yards swimming in reasonably swift water. You will find mallards against the bank a lot, but they usually will land 20 yards out and swim in. From a decoying standpoint for mallards you tuck them in against the bank, but have your divers and wigeons out at the 18 to 20 yard mark, so you do have visibility. Mallards will look pretty hard for someone who knows what to do with a call, a lot of times you don't even need mallard decoys. I've killed more mallards over goldeneye decoys than mallard decoys on the river. Mallards are far more inclined to look for sound than most other ducks.

Goose decoys are your friend, they work well for a lot of reasons. The reason we have lots of ducks swimming in the middle of the river is because of a debris line of moss that they feed in. That may not be present where you hunt. Birds will drift down the river getting tiny snails out of the moss, mostly this is the divers and wigeons, but they are all in the middle of the river. Usually there are as many as 3-5 thousand birds in these massive rafts, we traffic birds that are flying back upriver to reset their drift and it works very well. We use small spreads, maybe a dozen, usually less depending on what we are hunting. We have every duck you can imagine on the river and consistently kill 13 different species our of our hunting spot, even a wood duck on rare occasions.
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Re: River Hunting

Postby dmadden7070 » Mon Oct 01, 2012 8:45 pm

Whenever I've hunted river we always ran our decoys attached to lines like a trot line for fish across the river and along the sides. Corners were good because you could run them more along the middle but attach on the same side. Make sure to weight down the middle so boats can pass over lines that cross the river. Trees in the river are great for tie off points too. I've killed mostly mallards on the river. Hunting just for wood ducks is almost pointless due to how little they decoy around here.
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