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Big-water Action on Small Ponds

Getting the most out of your small-water hunting experience
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Story at a Glance
  • Sometimes-overlooked small-water honey holes can produce great hunts across the country.
  • Migrating birds will pick and choose small ponds and then change their minds very quickly.
  •  If you’re going to hunt small ponds regularly, make sure you have four or five scouted thoroughly so you can rotate ponds throughout the season.
  • Selecting the right decoys can make a huge difference, but don't be afraid to mix and match.
  • Let go of the overzealous hail calls on small water.


Getting away from big water and big-water spreads means having to let go of the overzealous hail calls. I've listened to hunters hail calling nonstop all morning, achieving nothing more than becoming lightheaded from lack of oxygen. Keep calls short and focused on grabbing the attention, like a shorter, quieter hail. The attraction here should be the pothole's serenity and peacefulness, i.e., a great place to rest between feeding times, possible feed opportunities and a non-paired hen looking for company. Still using the comeback calls, and feeding calls as needed, callers have to remember, when hunting smaller water, every aspect of the hunt needs to be brought down to size.

Like nearly all waterfowl-hunting scenarios, the trick is being on the "X" and knowing where the birds want to be. Successful small-water hunters are famous for their spread variations and their unique attempts to make their pond or small lake look like a waterfowl paradise. After a few great hunts, someone who is accustomed to the big spreads, big calls and big numbers will quickly realize that the one aspect of small-water hunting that is big is the number of birds in the bag.

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