For “Nick the New Kid”:
So you want got a shotgun, shells, leaky waders, a dog that doesn’t listen and you want to go duck hunting. No worries you'll fit right in. Only problem is you just moved here, you work all the time and just haven’t had the time to find a spot to hunt. The seasons right around the corner and you race to the computer to cyber scout on all your favorite duck hunting forums broken down by state/region to see what you can find… Nothing. You figure you’ll introduce yourself and ask if you can “tag along” or get some info on “where would be a good area to start looking for a place to hunt”. A few days go by and the seasons getting close. What do you do?
I’ve been stationed in a few different states over the last 8 years all of which I hunted. Some states it felt like you needed a law degree in order to duck hunt there while others it was a walk in the park.
Long story short whatever the reason is you don’t have a “X-Spot” yet (just relocated here recently from another part of the state or from far away, just got into duck hunting, old spots just weren’t productive last year) I’d like to help.
Gas is to expensive to drive around back roads aimlessly looking for that duck x-ing. Because of the financial times we’re cutting back but for the price of a tank of gas in your hunting truck (unless you are driving a Prius) let’s add a few things to our tool box:
Maine State Atlas:
This is a good foundation for $20.00
Google Map/Earth: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en
Download Google Earth to your phone or computer to get satellite images of areas you are trying to scout. This saves a lot of time and can be very efficient when planning a scouting trip.
United States Geographic Survey Maps:http://www.usgs.gov/pubprod/
Download free 7.5 and 15 minute maps (1:24,000 and 1:50,000 scales) in PDF format or order print maps in a variety of scales/optional features to include satellite images.Maine Wildlife Management Areas:http://www.maine.gov/ifw/wildlife/management/wma/
Check to see if there is anything in your “neck of the woods”. These areas are open to the general public and offer last minute hunting spots if you are behind the 8 ball going into the season.National Wildlife Refuge:http://www.fws.gov/refuges/refugeLocatorMaps/Maine.html
Same as the Wildlife Management Areas they offer public hunting on land set aside for recreational uses. Be sure to read up on the laws to see if permits, or special rules apply.Some other supplies you’ll want:
- Pens / Pencils
Ok so you bought a Maine Atlas, clogged the USGS website downloading every free Map for the state of Maine (before they start charging) and got a Notebook and Pens. Here is my recommendation:
1. Look on the USGS Maps first as they offer greater detail and give you the “big picture”.
2. Check out the spots that looked good on the USGS Maps on Google Earth.
What to look for:
- How close are houses from the area you intend to scout/hunt
- Where is the closest parking / boat ramps / gas stations
- Note land features to aid in locating later when we put “boots on ground”
3. Now after reviewing the USGS Maps and bouncing that off Google Earth you think you found the Duck Commanders “honey hole” it’s time to plan the itinerary. Take your Maine Atlas and in Pencil mark the spots you intend to check out that day.
4. “Connect the dot’s” and try to find the most direct route to hit them all while saving you gas from “doubling back” a direction you just came from… it happens.
5. So you pulled up and that “honey hole” has got a big’ole posted sign with no information on who the owner is let alone his/her number to ask permission to hunt. Relax… call or drop by the town office and ask them for the information that can be obtained with tax records.
6. Log all spots you wish to hunt in your notebook with important information on each spot (parking, access, directions, Map page in the Atlas and Grid). Erase the spots that are posted and you can’t obtain permission to hunt and leave the rest. Other Notes:
- Start close to home and work further away as you need to (you’d be surprised what is in your back yard).
- Repeat the process as you need to for late season spots when fresh water freezes up.
- Log why places are holding ducks (is it shelter, food, etc)
- Once you have the information you can visit the spots regularly (as time allows) to pattern birds and plan your next hunt.
By following these steps you can successfully find new places to hunt or compliment old ones. With today’s tools available to us there is no reason why everyone shouldn’t have a successful season, it’s just overwhelming sometimes to the new kids looking to get into the sport. We should all take it upon ourselves to invite someone new to the sport out with us each year so that it continues to grow and will always have a future.
Good luck and be safe,