By John Pollman
From small creeks to massive rivers, chances are there are ducks and geese using the moving waters in your area. Check out the following tips from three veteran waterfowlers, then grab your decoys and calls and find opportunities on a river near you.
Scout for Early Opportunities
While the majority of the waterfowl hunting Kent Contreras does throughout the season is on bigger water, the first weeks after opening day are often spent on smaller watercourses near his home in eastern Washington.
"The birds in my area have a tendency to seek refuge on smaller creeks and rivers once they've received pressure on the bigger water," Contreras says. "When there's a big weekend coming up and we know there will be a lot of hunters on a larger river, we'll head to those creeks and tributaries instead."
After 20 years of scouting along these smaller waters, Contreras has learned to concentrate his efforts on shallow portions of creeks, river bends and backwater sloughs that have formed off the main channel—areas ducks and geese love to use for feeding and loafing throughout the day.
Early-season hunts will produce a mixed bag of teal, pintails, gadwall, Canada geese and even an occasional wigeon, but by late season the smaller ducks will have moved on and will be replaced mainly by mallards.
Contreras says the downside to these smaller creeks and river tributaries is that open water is short lived once the mercury starts to drop. "One evening while scouting we found a creek holding close to 1,000 birds. Overnight the temps dropped, and the next morning when we showed up to hunt, the water was frozen and the birds were gone," Contreras says. "Cold weather will change things in a hurry."