DU Mobile Apps
Banding Together for Waterfowl

7 Tactics for Hunting Public Ducks

The author shares his secrets for hunting public waterfowling areas
PAGE 123

3. Hunt Where Others Can't

He who works the hardest often fares the best. True of life in general, this old adage also applies to duck hunting. Here's a shining example. Several years ago I wrote an article about two hunters from Little Rock, Arkansas, who frequented the state's renowned Bayou Meto WMA. Bayou Meto's flooded timber draws a lot of birds, but this area also has a reputation for drawing big crowds. 

These two hunters made a habit of venturing into the most inaccessible reaches of Bayou Meto. They would motor as long as they had sufficient water to float their boat. Then they would climb out and start wading into thick, brushy woods through water that was only a few inches deep. This was where mallards liked to go to escape the hunting pressure in more popular—and more accessible—areas. 

By working hard, these two hunters left the crowds behind and went where the ducks wanted to be. They outthought and outworked their competitors, and in doing so they consistently bagged limits of greenheads. 

To increase your chances of success, hunt outside the box. Seek out and explore places that are hard to reach. Study maps and aerial photographs to find spots where ducks may go to escape hunting pressure. Learn to use a GPS—an invaluable tool for exploring backcountry. Consider hiking and wading in or using a Go-Devil boat and motor, a canoe, a kayak, or any other means of accessing new territory.  

4. Hunt Multiple Areas

Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Many states have multiple WMAs and refuges in close proximity to each other. As weather and habitat conditions change, waterfowl will move around from one place to another to take advantage of new opportunities to feed and rest. At times, ducks trade between these areas like Saturday-morning yard-sale shoppers. Hunters who keep up with the ducks' movements and follow them can stay in the birds, while those who stick to one spot are likely to experience hit-or-miss shooting. 

Several years ago, a friend and I towed a boat-blind rig to Kansas. We scouted several small public reservoirs and found few ducks, before finally hitting the jackpot. One lake was hosting several thousand mallards. These birds were flying out at dawn to feed in surrounding grainfields, then returning to the lake to rest in midmorning. My partner and I bagged easy limits of close-working greenheads from the same spot four days in a row. We did so because we were mobile. We kept moving and looking until we found the ducks. 

Don't be a homesteader. Instead, draw up an itinerary that includes several public hunting areas within a specified region, and keep moving and prospecting until you find ducks.  

5. Stand Out in a Crowd

On public hunting areas, tactics that grab the attention of working ducks are often more effective in tolling birds than a more passive approach. Nowhere is this more evident than on Tennessee's Reelfoot Lake. In a setting where blinds are close together and many hunters vie for the same ducks, professional guides often put out permanent spreads that sometimes number in the thousands of decoys. They also employ multiple wing-spinners and other motion decoys. And they are expert practitioners of Reelfoot's legendary aggressive calling style—loud, continuous, and demanding. Sometimes several callers work together to capture and hold ducks' attention as the birds circle and descend into shooting range. 

This is not to imply that you have to put out as big a spread, add as much motion, or call as loud as a Reelfoot guide when you hunt on public land. Each situation is different. But you will gain an edge over the competition if you set out more decoys than the hunters around you, add some motion to your spread, and use insistent calling to attract the attention of passing ducks.

You can grab the attention of ducks in other ways as well. Make your decoys more noticeable by adding white to your spread in the form of pintail or spoonbill drakes. Or paint a few decoys flat black. These stark colors are more visible at long distances than drab-colored or faded decoys. Sometimes flagging draws long-range ducks as well as it does geese. Do whatever you have to do to get noticed, and you'll have better odds of bringing birds into your decoys. 

PAGE 123

Free DU Decal

Receive a free DU decal when you signup for our free monthly newsletter.