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With Dan’s first time duck hunting post, and Liberte’s how-to, I thought I’d chime in for the hat trick of duck hunting authors this season and let you know why you should be hunting ducks.

I spend a lot of time hunting.  Most years, In fact I hunt more days than I don’t. But duck hunting has a special place in my heart. My sponsor says the first step is admitting I have a problem. So here goes: duck hunting is my crack cocaine. I will embarrass my family, ruin jobs, and spend all my money for a chance to  tag a Teal or Wallop a Widgeon.

But I’m hardly alone in my addiction. People tend to get pretty passionate about duck hunting, in a way that few hunters will for deer or doves. The addiction will drive people to extremes. I recently hunted with a county prosecutor who admitted to taking a plea deal on a case solely so he could be done with the case and get out of town in time for a hunt before dusk. When you’re willing to cut a criminal a break because that spot always limits out on Wood Ducks and Redheads, you’ve got a problem. And murdering ducks is the solution.

The first reason to hunt ducks is simple; they’re tasty. As with all things, this is a matter of opinion. For me though, smoked duck cut into medallions and served with goat cheese is a treat I would fight a bear for. Shredded duck from confit is an incredible treat with almost any meal. Simple and delicious, rare Teal breast wrapped in bacon is an appetizer that takes only a couple of minutes and leaves everyone wanting more.

There are a few tricks to cooking wild duck. The first is that when it comes to heat, less is more. That same delicious, mouth watering duck can turn to inedible rubber when cooked even to medium. The second is that brining is big plus. With the exception of Mergansers, there’s no duck that can’t be turned into delicious meat with the right amount of salt, dextrose, herbs and some time.

Another reason: duck hunting is wildly varied. I got hooked by pond-jumping ducks, a method generally considered low-class by many duck hunters. But it’s a lot of fun. Best coordinated with a partner, you slowly walk up to a pond with ducks on it, hopefully sneaking close enough to get a shot or two off when they spook off the water. I’ve hunted many locations like this, including one where the ducks were so skittish that I hunted with a turkey choke and BB’s, because I knew that my shots were going to be at least 60 yards.

So duck hunting can be a spot and stalk adventure, as long as you’re OK striking out a lot, getting one or two birds per outing. You can also hide out in blinds over decoys on land, calling in hundreds of Mallards in what’s known as a “Ducknado.” You can even get your feet wet, out on blinds in boats just off shore — fresh water or salt — hitting waterfowl as they come in to land on the water alongside you. All of these hunts require different tactics, different calls, different camouflage, different shot choices and chokes.

Then there are the calls. Much like turkey calling, it’s a special kind of experience to have a conversation with the ducks. And the truly great callers do exactly that. It’s not just an attention grabber, but a coxing of the ducks to change their plans and get them to come on down for a bite.

I’ve been pretty good at using a feeding Mallard call to get ducks from one part of the water to swim on over to my part of the water, but this last weekend was the first time I could ever positively say I was able to turn flying ducks around and talk them down. That was a great experience, and for me it was more fun than the actual shooting. As an added bonus, you can embarrass and psychologically damage your children by only speaking to them through a call when you pick them up from school.

Ducks have personality. Even dead ducks. I have a few mounts on the wall, including some impressive rams.  Then there’s that full live-mounted alligator. But my favorite mount by far is my first duck, a Hooded Merganser drake. Even people who hate “dead art” love that guy. This year I’ve taken to calling him “The Donald Duck,” for obvious reasons. You can have ducks mounted seated, swimming, flying, feeding, any number of poses to bring out the behavior, and beauty of the animal. The colors and patterns of their feathers never cease to amaze.

If you get really serious, or hire a great guide, you’ll be able to retrieve with dogs. Once that happens, the hunt is as much about he dogs as it is the ducks, and it forms a great working relationship between you and the animal. People get really serious — as in a nice car price serious — about their dogs, and for good reason. A good retriever will sit still and quiet even as the birds are fanning in…then absolutely explode with joy and purpose the second you release it to bring in those ducks.  Using voice and whistle commands, they can be trained to go in whatever direction you tell them with military precision.  If you hunt over water, you’ll need either a dog or a boat. And the dog is a lot easier on you.

Finally, duck hunting is a fun activity you do with other people.  It’s true, some locations, and some ducks, require absolute stealth, quiet, and stillness. But a whole lot of places allow you to be a lot more social. I do a hunt every year down in Eagle Lake where four people will be in one blind, smoking cigars, playing with the dogs, and generally giving each other hell. We all limit out every year and we have a great time.

This hunt is part of a club, which I would highly recommend joining. Unless you are truly of spectacular means, it’s unlikely — at least in Texas — that you’ll own multiple bodies of water as well as have the time to scout them throughout the year.  Clubs provide a way to pool resources to build facilities, lease multiple locations for different parts of the season, as well as to hire scouts to check those locations out prior to and throughout the season.  Plus, the comradery  is just great, and you can learn a lot from each other while having access to land, equipment, and knowledge you wouldn’t on your own.  If you want to hunt more than a couple of times a year, joining a good hunting club is the way to go.

There’s not much time left in this season. Go pond-jump, or call a guide, or friends and have at it. Expect to strike out the first few times, but expect to have a lot of fun anyway. Duck hunting is my addiction…but I can quit anytime I want.

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  1. You can quit anytime you want. Uh, huh. When’re you gonna return my call about that beachfront property in Arizona?

  2. A few of the tricks from survival school seem much easier – fish hook on line or fine wire with worm or similar for the duck to swallow. Set before dawn and come back later

    Or the poachers head shot with silenced .22

    But then I hunt deer & goats etc not ducks

    • I agree.
      Maybe it’s an acquired taste- like haggis, or chutney, or Bovril, or Spam, or Vegemite.

      I will eat ducks no more forever.

  3. While I love bird shooting, I can’t shoot ducks. They just don’t taste good to me and I won’t shoot something and not eat it.
    Well, except for skunks. I hate skunks.

      • In the spring of 2014, I trapped 14 skunks in my back yard. I made a slight tactical error on the first one and he nuked me. Had to shave my head and throw away a perfectly good set of clothes.

        • Ya got that right. When that green slime landed on my head I started puking. Had to strip buck naked before the wife would unlock the back door to let me in. Then she puked.

        • How you deal with trapped skunk? Couple years ago I trapped live skunk in my back yard and then I realized I had no idea what to do with it. When I shot him with .22 pellet from distance and hidden behind the shed he “released”. Whole cage trap with the stinker in it got packed in two garbage bags and thrown in trash can. There must be better way.

    • plugged two with pellets this summer. my lawn looks like it was roto tilled from them grubbing.
      they “release” when shot. pull the trigger and run the other way.

    • Dog got into a skunk once. Apparently he ingested some. That made a….unique….aroma when he got sick in the house later.

      A few nights later I smelled our striped friend “wafting” in through the open windows. So I loaded the 12 Ga, grabbed a flashlight, and went hunting. We lived in a relatively populated spot in rural Northern Michigan, meaning our nearest neighbor was 100 yards. So the wife was yelling at me about the neighbors calling the cops if I fired a shotgun in the back yard.

      I couldn’t find the skunk, but on the way back in to the house I heard a shotgun over at one of the neighbors and an “I got him!”

      I miss Northern Michigan…

  4. Donald my ass. That hair ain’t orange. That’s Elvis Pressed Duck there.

    I’ve hunted ducks and geese. Lots of fun but you really need a good dog.

    As I’ve gotten older the hunting is more about hanging with a group of guys that get me. And like me in spite of that.

    And my favorite hunting is quail.

    • Same here on the quail. When I was a boy there were clouds of them to hunt as I walked through our fields. Now I have 2 small cuvies on my land, and those are precious in my area.

  5. Strange as it might sound, there was a time when people outside city limits grew their own veggies and killed animals/birds for meat. Now, we are more civilized, most let others do it for us. If it comes to survival, I am not gonna be too concerned about the right duck. I have never shot quail running either, I waited til they stopped. My squirrel hunting came to an end after hitting trees once too many times with the 53 Buick.

  6. Duck is my favorite bird to hunt, least favorite to eat, but my wife is a chef and a baker, so she does the confit way, l’orange and a special batter chicken fried variety which i really enjoy since its dark meat.

    I say favorite bird because if I didnt enjoy the hell out of venison chili, jerky and backstrap, there wouldnt be much of a runner up. Working a flock of birds with a comeback and then a good feed chuck to coax them in beats the hell out of sitting in stand. Combine that with a jerk rig, some Mojos and some good water, then get to pluckin.

    My wife has outlawed duck calls in our house, so all of my calls are in my vehicle where I can feed chuck undisturbed.

  7. I’ve never been bird hunting. Deer as a kid, varmints (coyotes and such) at range from time to time these days but never birds.

    Tip: When trying to sell an idea or product to a rational, thinking, non-addicted adult: don’t advertise it as crack or any other type of cocaine product. Yes, we’d all rather be snorting yak off a strippers ass but we also all know that partying like a rock star is a bad idea in multiple ways.

    • ” Yes, we’d all rather be snorting yak off a strippers ass but we also all know that partying like a rock star is a bad idea in multiple ways.”

      We do?

      Speak for yourself on that one, pal! *cough* 🙂

  8. Back when I used to duck hunt I always made sure another member of the hunting party or someone else agreed to take the “foul” tastings birds off my hands after I killed them, and that wasn’t always easy to do. A wild goose taste even worse and the smell will run you out of the house if you ever try to roast a wild goose in the oven like a turkey. A major DU advocate who was supposed to be a renowned duck chef used to hold an annual event I once attended where wild duck and goose was prepared in every way manner imaginable, but no matter how elaborate or creative the flavor masking ingredient in the recipe, it still tasted like duck, BUT, bacon does help a little. Duck is for sure an acquired taste, but then so is carp, mudcat, or buffalo.

  9. Sorry, but I demur . . . .

    I hunted ducks (and geese) extensively when I was a kid. Yes, it’s a ton of fun, but to me wild duck and wild goose both taste like mud no matter what you do to them. Maybe it’s just endemic to the Texas gulf coast waterfowl I hunted, but there it is.

    Except for pesting (skunks, squirrels (in garden), armadillos (ditto), rats, yotes, and feral pigs) or self-defense/preservation, my rule is that if I’m not gonna eat the animal I’m not gonna shoot it.

  10. RE: Live trapped skunks —

    1. Send young daughter (8-10) out about 20 yards in front of trap to distract said skunk.
    2. Slowly approach trap from behind with (disposable if necessary) blanket.
    3. Cover trap (skunk inside) with blanket.
    4. Pick up the whole shootin’ match and deposit in the bed of pick up truck.
    5. Drive as far as you think necessary then drive that far again.
    6. Remove trap (still covered) from truck bed.
    7. Plan retreat then remove blanked and open trap in one motion.
    8. Skunk (usually) meanders out the front of the trap and continues on his way.
    9. Retrieve trap (repeat as necessary).

  11. Seems like it’s either love or hate when it comes to eating waterfowl. Merganser is a no go for me but otherwise divers get turned into stew and everything else goes to the smoker or cured.
    I would only add one thing to the article, be safe, especially if your in a boat. If you are not familiar with motoring out to a duck blind in the cold and pitch black early morning let me tell you that a lot can go wrong and go wrong fast. Had 2 hunters go missing North of my area on the Mississippi this year. Last I heard they had found the boat. Proper prior planning prevents piss poor performance.
    It’s an absolute blast to do and a good working dog makes it even better.
    Don’t spend a ton of money till you know you like it (it gets expensive fast), learn how to cook properly. If hunting public respect other hunters and if you’ve never blown a call the blind isn’t the place to start. Stay safe and have fun.

  12. You’re makin me hungry sir… A cheap n easy way to prepare duck to remove the game taste n make it sweeter is to marinate it in Coca Cola over night. You’d be surprised how good that is. Blast it- now I need to find a spot near Ft. Leonard Wood….


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