From time to time, folks have asked what my favorite type of hunting is. Such a question does require some deep thinking. The only hunting that I did not enjoy was when I was first taken out snipe hunting at night.
Coming back to reality, I have always had wing shooting with ducks, geese and doves at the top of the list. Even quail and jacksnipe are great challenges, but at the very top is duck hunting.
Once a person has experienced the thrill of putting out decoys before daylight and then hiding in a prebuilt blind or just the natural vegetation, little else compares. Add to that the inspiring use of a duck call to entice the wary birds to come in. There is just something about having those ducks that have migrated so many miles appear so near. It’s unexplainable. It’s like the potato chip advertisement — you can’t duck hunt just once.
There are many different species of ducks that migrate into our area, but they fall into one of two categories. There are what we call puddle ducks, and the others are called diving ducks. These categories indicate the type of terrain that they prefer to feed in. The puddle ducks would include, but not be limited to, mottled ducks, mallards, pintails, spoonbills, wood ducks and teal. Diving ducks would be redheads, canvasbacks, scaup, widgeon, bluebills, ringnecks and several other lesser sought after species. The gadwall can be found in both the shallow marshes and the open ponds. Whenever you decide to head out on a duck hunt, it is important to have an idea in mind about what type birds you are going after.
Although all of the species are a challenge to hunt, my choice are the puddle ducks. They are, in some instances, a little more difficult to go after, but most folks agree that they are the better table fare.
Unless you are hunting with an outfitter, it is necessary to walk into the hunting area. The walk in the marsh is not for the timid. The ground amounts to rotten vegetation that is either covered or saturated with sour smelling water. The distance that must be covered will depend upon the hunting spot that you have preselected.
Walking through slush or mud in ankle to above knee deep gunk is not easy. Certainly to the avid duck hunter, the journey is worth taking.
Many times the weather is either cold and rainy, foggy or warm. The latter will also be accompanied by hordes of mosquitoes, deer flies and gnats. With the modern repellants, these are really not a serious problem. At least they don’t deter a really dedicated duck hunter.
Whether or not to use a retriever is the hunter’s choice. In my opinion, there is no better hunting partner than a well-trained retriever. They are great company and they handle the chore of retrieving the downed ducks. Very few, if any, ducks are lost when a retriever is used.
Finally the work is done and it is nearing sunrise. There are the sounds of ducks flying overhead. Their wings whistle, the sounds of duck talk is all around, and all of the effort put forth to be there has been forgotten. The important thing is that you are there and ready to ply your skills with the scattergun. There is always the vision of pot roast, baked duck or gumbo lingering in my mind.
Hunting ducks in deeper open water areas is also a great way to enjoy an early morning. The hunt areas may be reached by boat or by some other vehicle rather than having an early morning stroll in the marsh. I highly recommend the use of a reputable outfitter. These folks will have transportation to the marshes, open ponds, and rice fields. The work of a duck hunt will have already been done. Besides, they will likely have great places for the hunt.