Beat the Odds (and the Crowds) This Waterfowl Season
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.
Click here for more Realtree waterfowl hunting content. And check us out on Facebook.
Realtree waterfowl editor Brian Lovett has been an obsessive duck and goose hunter for more than 30 years, chasing his passion on the Dakota prairies and the marshes and open water of his home state of Wisconsin. He's been a writer and editor in the outdoors industry since 1991.