Tradition dictates that we hunt ducks a certain way: Throw out some decoys, hide in the brush, blow on a call, and let the birds come to us. Reality suggests something different. When the ducks aren’t flying, it’s time to move out and find the birds.
Consider it a still-hunt for waterfowl. The ideal habitat for this type of hunt consists of a marsh or wetland with multiple pools, ponds, puddles, and watery passageways–the type of hideaway that pressured ducks like.
Slip on a pair of waders and carry only your shotgun (choked with an improved cylinder tube and loaded with steel No. 4s for close-range shooting), shells, and a duck strap. A floating wading staff could round out your equipment needs.
Sneak along slowly so as not to create sloshing noises or make wakes that alert birds. Try to spot ducks before they see you. Take your time, working slowly and quietly toward ducks you have spotted swimming in and out of cover. There’s no rush in a duck walk.
Creep down watery lanes and ditches. Peer around corners and bends into watery openings. Hug cattails or other cover when moving. Stick to inside corners to surprise ducks as you emerge into pools, ponds, and open holes.
Stop often and use your ears. Listen for the little squeals and whistles of wood ducks, the soft clucks and chuckles of feeding mallards, and the nasal mini-quacks of teal. Work toward those sounds. Look up at the sky occasionally to watch for ducks diving in.
Carry your shotgun at the ready so you’re always prepared for a surprise flush. Puddle ducks spring upward to take off. Shoot fast (just let go of your floating wading staff) and try to drop the duck on the spot to assure retrieval.
Sitting and waiting for ducks to come to you can get old, especially in late morning or early afternoon, when the birds have finished flying for the day, or when hunting pressure has the birds hunkered down. At times like these, there’s nothing wrong with going on a sneaky stalk for ducks, seeking your quarry in its element. Take a duck walk this season and see what you come back with.
Photo: Brian Grossenbacher_