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River Hunting Strategies for Ducks

A hard freeze is good time to hunt river ducks
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  • photo by Chris Jennings, DU
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  • Hunters with the right equipment and gumption can find some of the finest, least pressured shooting this sport offers.
  • The prime condition for river hunting is during a hard freeze or when the river is flooding.
  • A fold-down boat blind is invaluable for river hunting.
  • Pre-rig your decoys with long strings (15 feet or more) and heavy anchors (8 ozs.) 

by Wade Bourne

The big river’s cold was numbing, but hey, we were duck hunting! Our traditional flooded bottomlands and fields were locked up with ice, and the ducks had headed to the open water of the river. They ducks didn’t come in waves. In fact, they were almost scarce. Sometimes my partner and I would watch for an hour without seeing a flight.

But when we saw one, we got ready to shoot! Virtually every bird that flew over our hole in the willows cupped its wings and curled back in. By late morning, we had a limit of greenheads and wood ducks and the satisfaction of not having seen another hunter nor heard another call.

Such action typifies that found along big rivers throughout the U.S. Hunters with the right equipment and gumption can run these waterways and find some of the finest, least pressured shooting this sport offers. The timing must be right. Hunters must always be geared toward safety, and they must be adventurers at heart. But when these elements are in place, rivers can be the best of all waterfowling worlds. 

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