Do ducks sink?

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

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Do ducks sink?

Postby Drakenstien » Sat Dec 14, 2013 11:18 pm

The other day I shot a duck 2 times and I was sure he was dead. But, later I could not find him at all. I never saw him pop up or anything after he went under in the middle of the pond. I have always been a deer hunter and my grandpa tells stories about deer and water. He says the tend to run towards water after being shot. And, sometimes they suck in water when they die. Do duck do this? He said he know this because on 3 occasions he's been in boats and poking the bottom with broom handles and what have you. And 3 time when they poke it it pops up because they are simi buoyant. He has also seen them float.


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Re: Do ducks sink?

Postby beastmode » Sat Dec 14, 2013 11:27 pm

I have had them do this. Especially divers. They will dive down a grab something underwater with their bill and never let go.

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Re: Do ducks sink?

Postby River Ramblin' Man » Sat Dec 14, 2013 11:31 pm

What happened to you isn't all that rare. There's quite a few theories on what they do. A lot of people think that they dive down, grab a stick or weed underwater, and drown. I have no clue if that's true or not. It's also possible that it got on the bank and laid down somewhere. There's been times that I was 99% certain the bird did not make it to the bank, only to find them laying in the brush somewhere.
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Re: Do ducks sink?

Postby BBK » Sat Dec 14, 2013 11:38 pm

Like already said, its not rare. It happens to our group every year, especially in the marsh. They do one of two things, if they are divers they typically dive under and pop up 75-80 yards away or dive under and swim to shore, puddle ducks will dive under and bury themselves under weeds or brush and drown. Only way to get them is to walk around where it dove and hope you knock it loose so it will float up.

All ducks float.
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Re: Do ducks sink?

Postby Drakenstien » Sat Dec 14, 2013 11:47 pm

BBK wrote:All ducks float.


What if they suck water in their lungs.


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Re: Do ducks sink?

Postby BBK » Sat Dec 14, 2013 11:48 pm

They are naturally buoyant, its not from the air in their lungs. Not sure what exactly makes them so buoyant though, probably something to do with the feathers.
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Re: Do ducks sink?

Postby reconcoupe » Sun Dec 15, 2013 7:51 am

Been hunting big water lately, lots of mallards hanging out in the large coves and even the middle. I've lost a few mallards that have taken a swim after being winged and watched them swim out to the middle before 'diving'. After some keen observation, study, and multiple hypotheses, contracted study through major government think tanks, hiring a producer to film a Under water duck reality TV show, and the acquisition of multiple recently unclassified government duckuments through the freedom of information act I have your answer and the reason my ducks go missing.



Catfish are eating my ducks....

Seriously though, I've caught some lunkers outta Milford reservoir, many over 25 lbs, and I wouldn't be surprised if a catfish has made a tasty treat outta a downed teal or gaddy, maybe even a mallard, even though its unlikely. Other than that I'm outta ideas.
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Re: Do ducks sink?

Postby troutman561 » Sun Dec 15, 2013 7:58 am

I had a gar steal a ruddy duck I shot. It was down, feet up, and started moving. This seemed strange and then it picked up speed. It wen under, then back up, and finally under to never be seen again.
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Re: Do ducks sink?

Postby Nelliboy2 » Sun Dec 15, 2013 4:46 pm

As others have said they will on occasion dive and grab something on the bottom and drown. However, I think this is the all around last resort. I know puddle ducks and geese will always come back to shore and hide somewhere. I find a few every season just taking my dog for a walk when I'm out...he will just run up into a log jam usually and a minute or two later he has a bird.

I usually layout hunt big water. I have noticed with divers and puddle ducks that on a calm glass like day. When we cripple a bird, I'll chase him down with the boat. Almost always they will dive when I get around 70 yards or so. With that said of they don't surface I can tend to see their break just bearly break the surface. I have has success with just shooting at it, usually the birds will not be dead but dazed floating giving me enough time to scoop them up.

This is next to impossible to do Ina chop. I tend to back off the birds if I lose them and one of two things will happen. If there are seagulls in the area soon you can just watch them start dive booming something in the distance. 9 times out of 10 that is your bird they are trying to kill. Number two just backing off for a half hour or so and glassing you can usually see then resurface and begin to swim. Then the chase begins again. Lol


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Re: Do ducks sink?

Postby Greenhead_Wrecker » Sun Dec 15, 2013 10:22 pm

Funny story actually... A couple weekends ago I shot a hen widgeon and she did the same thing. Could not find her and eventually gave up. A couple hours later I look down and there she was! She must have swam at least a couple hundred yards and banked herself right up onto some grass that I was using for cover. Pretty surprised and relieved to say the least!
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Re: Do ducks sink?

Postby Mike657 » Sun Dec 15, 2013 11:46 pm

We shot a drake mallard once 3 times and he was stitill kickin. He swam up to shore and layed on the bank. We drove over in the boat thinking he was dead so i was going to grab him, and he flew up then landed on the water 5 feet from me then dove. we were looking real hard for him then we saw a faint wake 70 yards away. We drove over there and he got on shore then went into a raccoon den. It took 40 minuets, a claw hammer, and a boat oar to get him out of their.
And then a merganser dove after being shot and never came back up. They do float. even if thy suck in air their down feathers should keep them afloat.
Good Luck in the field-Mike.
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Re: Do ducks sink?

Postby Frank Lopez » Mon Dec 16, 2013 11:38 am

I shot a drake mallard this morning that flew off about 80 yards into deep water before it dropped dead. There was an incoming tide and a strong NW wind that blew the bird to the far bank. No problem, really, I just watched it wash up into the bog and kept an eye on it. After I was finished hunting, I drove around to the other side of the harbor and picked it up. Still floating after 2 1/2 hours. Moral of the story, ducks don't sink, and if they're dead, they don't dive.

To the OP, if your bird hits the water and shows any sign of life, hit it again. Check out the Cripple Swatter thread in the Reloading forum. The consensus is to use small shot, like #6 steel to finish off crippled birds. This will generally deliver a much denser pattern to ensure strikes to the head and neck and result in a quick kill.

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Re: Do ducks sink?

Postby blackrock » Mon Dec 16, 2013 12:11 pm

Ducks definitely always float, but they try really hard to get away! We have had ducks do the "death dive" multiple times. Sometimes they do grab something underwater and stay down, I've looked down and seen it once in clear water. It was a Mallard. We lost a Goldeneye under ice in a small creek last week, never came out. That being said, I agree with Nelli, they are usually swimming away. I had to chase down two geese and a diver layout hunting yesterday. The geese (and ducks) can swim like a snake, with only their bill and a small portion of their back at the surface. It's really hard to see them unless the water is like glass, and they are often a lot farther away than I think by the time I locate them. Their will to survive is very strong, but we owe it to them to work equally hard to recover our birds!
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Re: Do ducks sink?

Postby Steelduck » Sun Oct 18, 2015 8:03 am

Could have SWORN I shot a triple yesterday. It was only about a 20-25yd shot. But by the time I got the kayak to the spot where they were downed, there was only one floating. Will they 'burrow" under the marsh grass I wonder? Imagine my broken pride that a triple quickly sinks to a single. Searched for two hours on that one. I guess that is why there is a "Ducks lost" on the HIP survey.
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Re: Do ducks sink?

Postby BBK » Sun Oct 18, 2015 8:33 am

Ducks love to dive and burrow under grass and laydowns. Theyll drown themselves and you will never find them. Gotta use those 2nd and 3rd shots to make sure the first is dead!


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Re: Do ducks sink?

Postby Rendy » Sun Oct 18, 2015 6:15 pm

divers are the worst. the rule in our boat is if its falling out of the air with its head up, shoot it again. chasing crippled divers is the worst, cans especially... a lot of times if they're crippled in the air, they'll turn their fall into a dive and you might not ever see again, or, its 50+ yards away when it comes up. and then theres the sneak, where they swim with nothing but their bill and the top of their head above the surface. you get to chasing a healthier crippled diver, good luck.

puddle ducks on the other hand, all you have to worry about them is when they grab something. they don't dive anywhere near the distance of divers.

when hunting, sometimes the waters clear enough to see them swimming/diving around me and i have pulled some out from a pile of weeds before. so they do grab onto stuff and try to not come back up.
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Re: Do ducks sink?

Postby Rick Hall » Sun Oct 18, 2015 7:46 pm

Some years back the notion of ducks grabbing something under water and hanging on came up in a discussion like this just as teal season was about to begin. So I did an informal survey of however many of my parties' 488 teal came in dead, several of which even had grass in their bills, and every one of them had a limber lower jaw. Which is what would expect of something that just died, and makes one wonder how they're supposed to manage to stay down in death.

Not saying that others haven't seen it, just that I'm not believing it until I do.
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Re: Do ducks sink?

Postby BBK » Sun Oct 18, 2015 7:57 pm

Rick, they release and float back up under weeds.. Or fanagle themselves under weeds/brush under the water and die.

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Re: Do ducks sink?

Postby Rick Hall » Mon Oct 19, 2015 5:00 am

BBK wrote:Rick, they release and float back up under weeds.. Or fanagle themselves under weeds/brush under the water and die.

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I've no trouble with those notions, only that there are dead ducks not surfacing when they expire, because they're somehow hanging onto something after death.
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Re: Do ducks sink?

Postby mudpack » Mon Oct 19, 2015 6:16 am

I've talked to waterfowl biologists about this. The consensus from the pros is that ducks do not commit suicide; this would require a mental capacity that ducks do not possess. So you can rule out the "dive, grab a weed, drown yourself" theory.

Ducks are buoyant and unless mechanically restrained below the surface, will float. (it's the air captured in the feathers)

All ducks can swim a long distance underwater, and even longer with just the tiniest portion of their head and bill above water. They are all but invisible when they do this. This is most likely what happened to the OP's bird. It's also possible that a large snapping turtle or even alligator got it. Eagles have been known to pick off dead ducks. Lots of normal explanations for where the duck went, but on the bottom of the pond isn't one of them.
Bottom line: ducks don't drown. They may die in/on/under the water, but not from drowning. If your duck isn't floating on the surface, it isn't dead.
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Re: Do ducks sink?

Postby wtrfwlr43 » Mon Oct 19, 2015 8:16 am

mudpack wrote:I've talked to waterfowl biologists about this. The consensus from the pros is that ducks do not commit suicide; this would require a mental capacity that ducks do not possess. So you can rule out the "dive, grab a weed, drown yourself" theory.

Ducks are buoyant and unless mechanically restrained below the surface, will float. (it's the air captured in the feathers)

All ducks can swim a long distance underwater, and even longer with just the tiniest portion of their head and bill above water. They are all but invisible when they do this. This is most likely what happened to the OP's bird. It's also possible that a large snapping turtle or even alligator got it. Eagles have been known to pick off dead ducks. Lots of normal explanations for where the duck went, but on the bottom of the pond isn't one of them.
Bottom line: ducks don't drown. They may die in/on/under the water, but not from drowning. If your duck isn't floating on the surface, it isn't dead.


:thumbsup: :thumbsup:

Many, Many, MANY moons had an old timer guide I knew tell me ducks will NOT drown themselves. He said they will dive, come up with their bills just enough out of the water to breath, and swim for cover. I have seen this several times over the decades. They are hard to pick up if there is any chop on the water but yes they are there.
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Re: Do ducks sink?

Postby BBK » Mon Oct 19, 2015 8:47 am

Rick Hall wrote:
BBK wrote:Rick, they release and float back up under weeds.. Or fanagle themselves under weeds/brush under the water and die.

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I've no trouble with those notions, only that there are dead ducks not surfacing when they expire, because they're somehow hanging onto something after death.


Yea thats not possible, unless they were electrocuted.


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Re: Do ducks sink?

Postby ROSEBUD » Mon Oct 19, 2015 10:10 am

Shot a goose saturday that dove on me in just over a foot of water in a marsh. Its whole body was under water and its head was barely above water. Hardest goose I have ever killed...
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Re: Do ducks sink?

Postby stevetags » Fri Oct 23, 2015 11:42 am

shot a few ducks that have dove and never came back up. was running my boat doing some scouting before season and i came up on a bunch of young birds one must have been injured he didn't fly away he dove down, i watched for ten mins waiting for him to pop up never did.
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Re: Do ducks sink?

Postby dakotashooter2 » Fri Oct 23, 2015 3:59 pm

The same thing that allows them to fly contributes to their buoyancy..............................Hollow bones..............
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