Then there are actual, physical scouting trips afield. Far and away the most dependable info you can gather will come via your own eyes. Hunters who do their own scouting reap obvious benefits. A friend might inform you that ducks are using a certain area, but it's best to be on-site to find the precise spot they're hitting. This may require a late afternoon scouting trip, watching from a road with binoculars, or perhaps running a boat into a marsh or down a river to find a spot for the next morning's shoot.
Many hunters don't have this luxury, however, and they must scout and hunt the same day. The temptation in this is to get in a hurry—set up the first place where you find a few birds, and you don't do a proper job of scouting.
Instead, keep looking until you know "this is THE spot," then toss out your decoys. Don't sidetrack your chances for a quality hunt just to get started early.
For instance, a few years back a friend and I heard that ducks were using the Ohio River in western Kentucky, which was on a fast rise. The next morning we waited for sunup before we launched so we could see where birds were working. Then we started motoring through sloughs and backwaters, looking for action.
We jumped a few ducks here and there, but we couldn’t find a good concentration. Finally, after running more than 10 miles, we flushed at least a hundred mallards from a small hole in the willows next to a remote island. We set up there and had our limits of greenheads two hours later. By resisting the lure to stop before we were sure we were in a good spot, we found the honey hole.
Words of Wisdom
Many old adages expound the virtues of being prepared. "A stitch in time saves nine." "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." "Don't put all your eggs in one basket."
Here's a similar (albeit contrived) bit of wisdom for waterfowlers: "Scout none; little fun. Scout a lot; shooting's hot." Indeed, scouting and laying long-range plans are sure ways to improve hunting success. Then, a hunter can update his strategies as the season progresses.
Again, scouting is fun. It's a way to jump-start the season and build anticipation for it. Indeed, it's like a waterfowl hunter's early installment plan. You pay ahead of time for pleasures that come later. The payment comes in the form of locating new places and scouting them out. The pleasures come in the form of cupped wings and legs hanging for a splashdown.
By Wade Bourne, from Ducks Unlimited Magazine July / August 2003 Issue