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River Hunting Strategies for Ducks

A hard freeze is good time to hunt river ducks
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Story at a Glance
  • 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.) 

Conducting a River Hunt

Conducting a river hunt is a two-step process. First, you must locate the ducks.  Then you must set up precisely where they want to be. In so doing, your decoys must look natural and your boat and hunters totally concealed from discerning eyes in the sky above.

If you don’t know where ducks are working, don’t leave the boat landing before dawn, since it’s safer to motor big water in daylight, especially if flood conditions prevail. Plan to shove off and start scouting for ducks just about shooting time.

Then simply cover water and watch for birds. Don’t stop and set up before you find a concentration. Then, when you see working ducks or flush a large flight off the water, move in and set up exactly where they were. They like that spot for a reason.

Pre-rig your decoys with long strings (15 feet or more) and heavy anchors (8 ozs.)  If you find ducks working shallow water, you can adjust string length accordingly. But if they’re rafting in deep water, you’ll need the long strings and heavy weights to hunt there.

Then it’s a matter of picking a spot to hide the boat blind, setting up and waiting.  If possible, push the boat into adjacent cover, hopefully in a shadow or next to a tree with overhanging branches. Add native vegetation to the blind for a more natural appearance.

Truly, river hunting can be wild and unpredictable. It can scare you. It can awe you.  It can also provide some of the most unforgettable experiences in waterfowling.

In this age of expensive private leases and crowded public shooting areas, rivers may be the best deal going for hunters willing to explore their potential. Large and small, these flowing waters are pathways to discovery. Try them out, and you will learn this for yourself.

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