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August 16, 2013
Waterfowl: How to Hunt Early-Season Wood Ducks - 0
As if their ornate plumage, cool calls, and occasional willingness to splash into a spread of decoys weren’t enough to entice you, wood ducks also offer the early-season duck hunter challenging wingshooting and fine table fare.
But hunting wood ducks with consistent success takes more than luck. Put these five steps to work on warm-weather woodies.
Get Woody Wisdom
Start your scouting well before the season begins. Watch and listen for flying ducks at dawn. Make daytime sneaks into the kinds of habitat described above and look for woodies you can hunt come opening day. Identify setup spots for different winds.
Set Your Blocks
Here’s a good setup. Utilize a crosswind (right to left is ideal if you shoot right-handed) and place a loose pod of decoys just upwind (right) of you, next to but not quite in cover. Stick a wing-spinner at the pod’s tail end, nearest you. Woodies will want to swing around and come into the breeze, buzzing your set or trying to land in the open water in front of you.
Speak Their Language
If the birds land somewhere else, lure them into range with soft sw-eet, sw-eet, sw-eet whistles—try a Buck Gardner 6N1 whistle (buckgardner.com). Stand up and flush the birds to take your shot.
Wood ducks dodge, dart, and juke, and they’re quick too. Swing through and keep the barrel moving on buzzing birds—think butt-bird-beak-bang. Load up with fast-shooting steel in No. 5 early on and No. 4 later, when thicker-feathered migratory birds come through.
Early-season wood ducks feed on tender tubers, nutritious seeds, and succulent greens, and their delicate, light red meat is tender, mild, and juicy. Care for it well and you will enjoy the best duck eating of autumn.