Story at a Glance
Key sections within this article include:
- Freelancing Big Rivers
- Small Streams: Great Hunts
- Go with the Flow in the Marsh
- Not for Sissy Hunters
- Legalities of Hunting Navigable Waters
by Wade Bourne
Moving waters comprise the last great frontier in North American waterfowl hunting. These are the large rivers, small streams, and tidal marshes that bisect and border this continent. They are wild, free places that draw hunters with a similar nature. Hunting on them provides ever-changing adventure and—at times—some of the best shooting imaginable.
"When conditions are right, the Mississippi River has the best duck hunting on the planet," declares David King, a longtime freelance hunter on this Father of Waters. "Typically, this is when the water is rising and breaking into the switch willows along the banks. When this happens, the ducks can show up overnight, and they'll be in a working frame of mind."
"Ducks hang out on little creeks all over the country. There are more birds on these spots than most people realize," states Jesse Simpkins of Hinckley, Illinois. "If you can gain access to private property where they're located, and if you know the right tactics, you can bag limits on these little creeks. They can be productive and very satisfying places to hunt."
"The tides and winds are the keys to success in the marsh," explains Ryan Lambert about hunting coastal wetlands in south Louisiana. Hundreds of square miles of brackish and freshwater marsh are open to the public, and they can offer terrific shooting. However, as Lambert emphasizes, "The water level determines where the best food is and where the ducks will be. You've got to be able to read the conditions and know where to go to get in the action."
Rivers, creeks, tidal marshes: moving water is the common denominator. Water rises and falls. It pushes and pools up. It creates new feeding opportunity for ducks, then it takes it away. Hunters who know how to adjust to moving water can follow the birds and find incredible shooting. Here is how these three experts do it, and how others can apply their tactics on their own moving waters.