After Benelli sent me a Super Black Eagle II to test out in anticipation of my first duck hunt, I’ve been trying to consume everything I can about the process of seeing a duck flying through the air and transforming it into confit. Thankfully, my hunting buddy Will does a bunch of duck hunting so I’m leaning on him pretty hard to show me the ropes. But I realize that the average TTAG reader may not be as lucky to have a “guy” in the know . . .

So imagine my elation at seeing a post on the Beretta Twitter page entitled “Five Steps to Successful Duck Hunting.” In it, author Derrek Sigler advocates for the following which I’ve trimmed back slightly in the interest of space on this page.

1. Go high tech
Scouting now has gotten very high tech. Smartphone evolution continues to come up with new tools we never knew we needed before, but for some reason, now can’t live without. Apps for phones, tech-speak for programs, allow us to know weather updates, satellite images GPS information and all kinds of data that can either help you as a hunter, or bog you down, depending on your point of view. I for one am usually tied to my iPhone and use it constantly while hunting to check shooting hours, wind directions, etc.

2. Globally position them
Another gadget worth having for scouting is a good GPS unit. I use two, one being a handheld unit, a Magellan Explorist 710, and a Garmin Nuvi automotive unit for the vehicle. The reason behind the car unit is simple. When I first cut my teeth duck hunting, the main thing I was after was Canada geese. We would often sit on a pond in the morning when they were still roosted. The ponds were usually in town and not hunt-able, we’d follow them out to a field and get permission to hunt, and this worked well but involved some breakneck driving at times and if we were in areas we weren’t used to, we’d sometimes have a hard time remembering just how we got to where we were going. A GPS gives turn-by-turn directions and gives me one less thing to think about when I’m navigating my way back to a field in the pitch black of early morning, coffee-pounding, pre-hunt travels. The GPS is accurate enough that I don’t have to worry.

3. Start earlier
Springtime is a great time to start scouting, too. I spend as much time looking for good fields in the spring as I do in the fall. It helps to find those hidden potholes and ponds in the spring. For one, you get a good idea of what they should look like come fall. The water levels are usually higher in the spring then they will be in the summer, when they could be dried up. But come fall, the heavier rains will often fill them up enough to hold birds. It is also a great way to find a spring turkey spot, and who doesn’t like dropping a thunder chicken when the opportunity arises?

4. Take their picture
Game cameras are changing the way we hunt. I use game cameras for scouting waterfowl and not just geese in fields. It is a great way to scout when you’re not there.

5. Network, baby!
Get in touch with your local wildlife biologists and ask them for advice. Spring is a great time of year to do this as they are not inundated with requests from other hunters.

Another great source is police officers. I got in with a few guys years ago who were all in law enforcement. They are great sources of information. Think about it, they spend a lot of time driving around on patrol. The guys I know are all into waterfowl hunting and are eager to report bird movements. A couple of these guys are now trusted hunting and fishing buddies too. On top of being great guys, they tell the best stories while sitting in the blind. Who wouldn’t want to hear about the drunk who got tasered?

I think that Derrek’s article largely focuses on the “finding” the ducks part which I guess is more than half the battle. Having never hunted ducks, I can’t say for sure if these are solid strategies, however, I have hunted deer and doves and I would say all this works for them. Essentially, get out in the field as earlier as possible, use game cams aggressively, and ask the locals what you should do. Largely solid advice in my opinion.

Would any of our local duck hunters mind weighing in on strategies they’ve found helpful for getting on the ducks? Or has Derrek hit the nail on the head?

22 Responses to First Time Duck Hunter: Five Steps to Successful Duck Hunting

  1. The hunter crouches in his blind
    ‘Neath camouflage of every kind
    And conjures up a quacking noise
    To lend allure to his decoys
    This grown-up man, with pluck and luck
    is hoping to outwit a duck

    — Ogden Nash

  2. Pitch black outside, ten below zero,
    Man I am freezing cold;
    My age is starting to creep up on me,
    and boy am I feeling old.
    But as the sky starts to lighten,
    once black starts to turn blue;
    My heart starts to beat a little faster,
    my energy and strength are renewed.
    Then I see the ducks in the distance,
    take off for their morning flight;
    I no longer notice the cold,
    as I keep the ducks in my sight.
    Slowly I start to call,
    I see the ducks look my way;
    Their checkin out my decoy spread,
    and the safety that is displayed.
    They circle once, they circle twice,
    Then I see them cup their wings;
    They are going to try and land,
    oh what happiness this brings.
    Ten feet or so from the water,
    just before they land;
    I bring my shotgun to my shoulder,
    and steady it with my hands;
    I squeeze the trigger slowly,
    and let my steel shot fly;
    My aim is true, my shot is perfect,
    I watch the ducks fall from the sky.

    — Dwayne Bailey

  3. I’ve only ever shot a couple of ducks in my life, opportunistically while quail hunting, but I second the GPS rec. I’ve used GPS for what you mentioned, as well as marking interesting things like fishing spots, Indian rock paintings, patches of interesting rocks or plants, an old plane wreck, an old settler dugout, a defunct pot farm on city property, and so on.

    I really need to get into game cameras. Your posts have been very helpful on those.

    • Same goes for deer, for that matter. Flap your mouth about a good bedding area you found and the next thing you know, an outfitter will buy the hunting rights out from under you. Land owners are generally kind people, but in their eyes, free money and free deer management is better than having some city guys drive out once a year to shoot things that move.

      I speak from experience. I lost a good hunting spot that way. It was really, really good.

      Never again.

  4. Duck hunting is pretty much the crack cocaine of hunting. I will spend whatever money it takes, abandon my family, ruin my guns, truck, clothes, reputation, skip work, lie to my friends, all to get steel in the air and be rewarded with that oily plumb colored goodness. I smoke them, cure them, and feast on them, often in gluttonous privacy.

    I constantly scheme on how to take the ample ducks I see in city parks and ponds, year round. “no one has to know…”

    I don’t have a problem. I can quit whenever I want.

    JWT

  5. I would think that the first item in line to have a successful duck hunt is to hit the duck. Otherwise all you are doing is toting a shotgun around the swamp.

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