by John Pollman
As waterfowl season creeps closer, preparedness is the key to success. There are decoys to rig, dogs to train and blinds to build, but the one aspect many hunters overlook is scouting. Stay ahead of the game with these scouting techniques and you may find yourself on the "X" on opening day.
So you've found a group of honkers in a harvested wheat field or just watched a group of mallards drop into a slough – now what? The following tips will help you turn a scouting discovery into hunting success.
The big picture
From August to April, it seems that Ben Fujan is always scouting birds.
Waterfowl from Canada to Missouri and back again are the objects of his obsession, and if this Avery Pro-staffer has learned anything from miles of scouting, it's that finding birds is just the first step in the journey toward a successful hunt.
"Probably one of the first things I want to find out is how this snapshot of activity fits in to their normal routine," says Fujan. "Sometimes the answer is pretty clear; other times you have to keep digging."
When you've spotted either ducks or geese on the water, Fujan says it is very important to identify whether or not you've found a main roost area. If it is a body of water that birds are hitting right at sundown, or you see them leaving right at daybreak, chances are it is best to leave that water alone.
"You really need to be careful of hunting on or even within ¾ mile of a main roost, as you can push birds out of an entire area pretty quick," says Fujan. "But if you've found where birds are spending the night, watch them the next day and follow them to their next stop. Maybe you can catch them at another smaller loafing area or feeding in a field."
Fujan says that ducks in particular will often leave their roost area and hit a small pothole before feeding in a nearby grain field. Spots like this can provide the hunt of a lifetime.
And don't be afraid to pay attention to even the smallest flock in the air.
"One little bunch of mallards can give away the location of a pile of birds, and even small groups can add up," he says. "If you find a small slough with only 75 ducks but then discover that they are coming to it in small groups of five to 10 birds at a time, you've found yourself an ideal hunting situation."