I've fished all across the Untied states. I've also hunted many different North American game animals but never ducks. My brother in law lives next door to me and was in the same situation. After seeing a few duck hunting shows on television we decided to give it a shot this season. This is our story.
Opening day, 2012.....
We decided to go out behind our houses to a timber swamp deep in the woods. We made a make shift blind, set our decoys and waited. We saw a few flocks of geese fly over but too high. Then two ducks flew into the swamp but did not land with us. After a short while of me being impatient I told my brother in law I was going to sneak up on the two ducks. Well, it turns out sneaking up on ducks is harder than I anticipated. They saw me coming and flew long before I was close enough for a shot. However, they only flew to the other side of the swap. With my new found knowledge on how weary they are I decide to pull on my many years of deer stalking to aid my pursuit. This time everything went according to plan except when I pop up to shoot they had moved down the swap about 40 yards. They get up and fly out through the woods, mental note for later, ducks can fly though thick forest it seems. However, standing there thinking about how they flew out through the forest they suddenly come directly back over me at tree top level. I shoot three times, one duck goes down, winged him. Now the chase is on, back and forth through the swap until my brother in law and I finally corner him. First duck ever, by the end it took about an hour to shoot, kill, and retrieve the duck in 65 degree weather with neoprene chest waiters. To this day I worked more for that duck than any other this season. We get back to the blind and start to cool off, only minutes later another duck fly’s into the decoys and lands. My brother in law shoots. Turns out it was the second duck of the pair I got one from earlier. Both blue wing teals. These are the only two ducks we see and our morning hunt ends.
Things we learned…..
Ducks can fly though the forest, not just over it.
If a pair of ducks fly in and you get one, most likely the second will circle back around to check for its lost companion so be ready.
Early duck season is too hot for neoprene chest waiters, we need a duck dog.
Scouting is requirement for the future.
That was a ton of work for two little ducks……
Opening day, afternoon hunt…..
We had our decoy spread set and blind built by 2PM at a pond about 50 yards from a major river. Fast forward three hours and we see the first duck. It lands in river. I start to call too it and it responds. Out of boredom I call back and forth for about a minute with the duck and to my astonishment it gets up and fly’s directly at us, lands in the decoys and we shoot. Our first mallard is down, this is the point at which I know I’m officially hooked on duck hunting, head over heels in love. It was amazing calling back and forth with the duck. We see about 10 or so more mallards before dark, they all stick to the river and never come look at our pond.
Things we learned…….
Don’t set up at 2PM, we only saw ducks the last 45mins or so of light so we might as well just set up for the last 2 hours for an evening hunt.
If a duck lands across the pond, you can, under the right scenario call to it and convince it to get up and come over to you.
Ducks like to fly up and down rivers and actually follow the bends in the river.
Duck hunting is amazing.....
Fast forward a few weeks.
At this point we are starting to get a feel for duck hunting. We have been to several small ponds but have seen very few ducks. We shift our game plan due to the low duck numbers and head south down near the border of NH and Mass. It’s a large swamp with a lot of dead timber. We get out, find a spot and start to set our decoys, we are about 5 minutes after shooting light but no big deal, its just 5 minutes. While setting out our decoys we have a drake mallard actually land with the 4 decoys we have out and both of us standing there 10 feet from him. He quickly realizes his mistake and takes off. Before we can finish setting out 12 decoys we have 5 other small groups of mallards try to land with us while we are standing in the water in the middle of the decoys without our guns. We have now seen as many ducks in the past 10 minutes of decoy setup as we have the past two weeks of hunting combined. We make it back to shore and get set up in our blind, see a few ducks flying but nothing else comes into our decoys that morning.
Things we learned….
Duck commandments one and two (still have to learn the rest):
1) DECOYS MUST BE SET BEFORE SHOOTING LIGHT!!!!!!!!!
2) YOU MUST BE IN YOUR BLIND READY TO GO BEFORE SHOOTING LIGHT!!!!!!!!!!!
NEVER EVER EVER set decoys during shooting light without your gun in hand…….
During the first 5mins of shooting light while it’s low visibility it seems like the ducks also suffer from the low visibility. This is the only explanation we have for them landing literally on top of us while we were in the middle of the few decoys we have set.
Fast forward, start of the late season:
We are now hopelessly hooked on chasing these billed birds. We have purchased wood duck decoys to go with our mallards as well as a mojo duck for the visual flapping wings. We have shiny new decoy bags and Rig em’ rights for all of our decoys. I bought a Benelli Nova and my brother in law bought a shotgun as well. We now are packing in coffee with us to drink while we wait for first shooting light because we always have our decoys and blind ready early. We both have small collapsible hunting chairs, a must for make shift blind hunting. My brother in law bought a brown lab pup, have to wait for him until next year but something to look forward to other than opening day. We are much less green in the duck hunting world but we are very far from being good. The late season goes well for us, we are seeing more ducks due to our scouting efforts between early and late season. We are also much better shots, this results in a reoccurring Sunday night duck dinner. In the words of Phil from Duck Commanders, we are “happy happy happy”.
Fast forward, late late season:
Small and medium ponds start to freeze. We learn quickly that we have to hunt rivers or large lakes. Due us not having a duck boat we resort to the river at places we can wade across. We notice that all the other duck hunters have come to the same conclusion and ended up at the river with us. We see a few but they are very decoy shy at this point. Again, we shift our game plan and decide to head to the ocean for the first time. We hear they get more migrating birds there. This Thursday morning will be our first ocean duck hunt. We would love any tips or suggestions for ocean duck hunting. It looks like that will be our home for hunting until January. I’ll update this thread again after Thursday.
This was my first post after reading this form for the past few months for help. Its nice to finally chat with everyone.
Beard Commanders, over and out………