As you might have seen earlier today, my first ever morning of duck hunting was a rousing success. Expect a full review of the Benelli Super Black Eagle II that I shot this morning, but rest easy, it’s a duck killing machine. And uhhh gosh is this fun…
If our comments section is any indication, we’ve got a couple of duck hunters in the house. And for you experienced bird hunters, feel free to skip the next few paragraphs. For those who have never been coastal duck hunting before, here’s a run down on how our morning went.
As in all good hunting trips, you have to get up early. Not four hours before sunrise early, but still pretty early. The next step is to get out to where you’ll do your hunting so you can set up your decoys. This requires a boat. Or at a minimum, a friend with a boat which was our method today. The water out here in the mangrove swamps and oyster beds is super shallow. We’re talking a foot to two and a half, tops. So preferably, find a guy with a flat-bottomed boat made for this type of thing. Once you have your spot, unload your gear, and stow the boat off to the side.
The next step is to unload and place all of your decoys. In our case, we used three dozen or so floating decoys with lead anchors attached. We positioned them in two groups with about 10 yards between them to create a landing strip, if you will. Next to the landing strip, a MOJO mallard decoy is set to simulate the landing process to further entice our flying friends. Then, the waiting begins.
Like dove hunting, duck hunting is a very social activity. You take a couple buddies, set up all your gear, and then sit in some chairs and wait for the birds. Unlike dove hunting though, you can usually see ducks coming in from a distance so you can get yourself settled and watch them fly over or approach for a landing. My hunting buddy Will brought some calls, but used them only to shift a flock’s attention back our way. As you can see in the opening picture, some of the flocks that did high altitude passes were massive.
Once a low flock of ducks (usually four or so) start to circle, you sit very still so as not to alarm them. Once they’ve made the decision to land on the aforementioned runway, they’ll start to backflap to slow themselves and this presents a great opportunity to shoot as they’re relatively somewhat stationary at the time. That said, the three that I shot this morning were both overhead shots which resulted in some pretty spectacular splashes when they hit the water. My take this morning was a Pintail hen, and a Redhead drake and hen. I was the only hunter to bring any birds back home after the morning hunt.
If you’ve got trained dogs, they run out and get your birds. In my case, through, I had to go fetch my own. We’ll be going out this evening with a guy who likes to call and also owns some dogs. I anticipate a truly luxurious experience. Here’s what I’ve learned so far.
- Hunting ducks is a lot of fun. I found it to be a great time to shoot the breeze with your buddies and watch as nature does her thing around you. The ducks themselves are a lot easier to hit than doves, and that’s always satisfying.
- I had anticipated much colder weather so I ended up sweating a ton in my 3 mil neoprene waders and Carhartt long john underwear. This evening and tomorrow morning I plan on running a great deal less in the way of insulated clothing.
- Did I mention that this is fun? I mean really fun. I see why people are so addicted to doing it.
- Just like deer hunting, a set of electronic hearing protection is golden. You can still chat with your friends, but when the ducks come in, your ears are protected from damage.
- The Benelli SBE II is a dream. I used the included shim kit last week to adjust the drop on the stock so it fit me better, and it points like an extension of my body. While I only shot about half a box of three-inch #2 steel shot this morning, my shoulder feels great thanks to the cushy recoil pad and (what I perceive to be) soft shooting Inertia Driven system.
- There are a lot of duck recipes on the internet.
- Have I mentioned how much fun it is?
I’m not sure why duck hunting is such a good time. Maybe because they’re such a large animal that it seems kind of wild to just shoot one out of the sky. Or maybe because you get to hang out and shoot the breeze with your buddies. Or it might be the fact that you’re sitting in some brackish water, watching tailing reds, as hundreds of ducks fly over at high altitude. It’s just really cool, tons o’ fun, and damnit, I think I’m totally addicted.