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Banding Together for Waterfowl

Duck Scouting 101

Year-round scouting leads to success

It's in the details

Once you've found birds on the ground, the amount of guesswork decreases quickly—it becomes more of a numbers game.

Canada geeseIn terms of Canada geese, the rule is basically "the more the merrier." Fujan, who typically hunts with a group of three to five other hunters, is looking for a field holding 100-150 birds. But even more important than the number on the ground is how the birds are coming to the field.

"I'd rather hunt a field of 50 birds where the geese are coming four at a time instead of a giant feed where they are coming in three huge flocks," says Fujan. "Big flocks are normally so much harder to decoy. Smaller groups just seem to respond better to calling, flagging and the decoys."

But Fujan's number-one piece of advice for field hunting Canada geese is location, location, location.

"Setting up on the 'X' is absolutely paramount," he says. "Especially for early-season birds that are still bunched up in family groups. Being even 20 or 30 yards off the 'X' can make a big difference."

Fujan suggests waiting at a distance until the birds leave the field, then finding the exact spot where they were feeding. Look for the freshest droppings and feathers, then mark the spot in your GPS, or leave a cooler or a bucket—anything that is going to put you on the "X" the next morning.

When dry-field hunting ducks, Fujan is a little more of a stickler for numbers. He says 500 mallards is the minimum, as they tend to come to a field in large flocks. And if you do find a big mallard feed, make sure the birds are ready for a commitment.

"Seeing that tornado is cool, but you want to see those birds hit the ground," says Fujan. "You want birds that are loyal to a field, that are not bouncing back and forth like they are not sure what they want."

With ducks, there is a little room to fudge on setting up on the "X" in terms of maintaining good visibility of your decoys. But Fujan adds that you can rarely go wrong setting up where the birds want to be.

Putting it all together

In the end, turning a successful scouting mission into a great hunt is a matter of putting the puzzle together.

Fujan says that even the smallest piece—such as knowing the direction from which the birds will be approaching the field—can make a world of a difference in terms of how you position decoys and blinds, especially on a day with little wind.

But small pieces add up, and the final prize is a worthy goal.

"It ends up being a lot of time behind the windshield," he says. "But the more you know about what the birds are doing, the more likely you'll have a good hunt with your buddies the next day."

And that is time well spent.

Hunting buddies

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