5 Reasons You're Not Killing Ducks on Public Land

By author of The Duck Blog

Beat the Odds (and the Crowds) This Waterfowl Season

Not everyone can hunt private hotspots, but that's OK. Hard work and a smart approach can help you find plenty of public-land birds. Photo © Bill Konway

Public land: Those words carry a special weight when describing a hunt, especially in sometimes high-pressure world of waterfowling.

Finding success at spots open to everyone — public water, wildlife areas, walk-in properties and others — can be challenging. (Thanks, Capt. Obvious.) Birds have been harassed, spots are burned out and nonstop activity from a constant stream of eager hunters can make public waterfowling seem like mission impossible. Yet season after season, some guys consistently get it done.

Those hunters are pros, and there’s nothing wrong with trying to emulate their approaches. But instead, maybe it’s better to first look inward and examine why we sometimes stumble when hunting those everyman spots. Here are five reasons why we don’t kill ducks on public ground.

Hunting With the Crowds

If you’re surrounded by other folks on public water, you’ve probably already lost the battle. Seek remote areas far from the crowds — spots where waterfowl will feel secure feeding or loafing. You’ll have good odds of working flocks at such spots. You have little chance at legitimately calling or decoying birds that are being flared or shot at by other hunters.

This approach requires lots of work and scouting effort, which is why many folks eschew it. But the choice remains: Be lazy and unsuccessful, or exert maximum effort to give yourself a chance.

Hunting During Peak Pressure Times

As with hunting popular spots, your chances of success dwindle when you hunt periods of peak human activity — opening day or Saturday mornings, for example.

If possible, hunt during the week or even at midday. Yeah, that requires a flexible schedule and probably lots of vacation time. But again, would you rather experience frustrating days during convenient times or make an extra push to boosts your odds?

Your Skill Set is Lacking

Examining your basic waterfowling skills — shooting, calling, decoy savvy, setup smarts and others — can be sobering. You do not have to be a world-class caller or champion skeet shooter to kill ducks at public spots. However, it always pays to sharpen your skills to the utmost so you can take advantage of opportunities when they arise. Plus, practicing these disciplines year-round extends the waterfowl season far beyond autumn.

Not Paying Attention to Details

Sloppy waterfowlers often miss out on potential public opportunities. Small details — maximum concealment, keeping the sun at your back, calling shots at optimum times and others — can make or break a hunt. Think critically when forging a plan and setting up. Observe how birds react, and don’t be afraid to switch spots or tactics when Plan A doesn’t work.

You’re Easily Dissuaded

This might be the No. 1 reason folks fail on public water: They get discouraged and quit.

Hey, I’ll admit that public hunts can frustrate even highly motivated waterfowlers. But getting figuratively punched in the nose one day shouldn’t keep you from trying again. View failure as a learning experience. Eliminate unproductive spots. Try new areas and approaches. This dogged, determined mindset will ultimately lead you to full public-land straps.

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