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Banding Together for Waterfowl

Scouting - Waterfowler Early Installment Plan

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By Wade Bourne

Wade Bourne is the author of “A Ducks Unlimited Guide to Hunting Dabblers” and “A Ducks Unlimited Guide to Decoys and Proven Methods for Using Them.”

The overgrown boat trail led to who-knows-where, but I was determined to find out where.

I nosed my boat into the small opening in the reeds. It was barely wide enough to slide through. The ditch ran straight into the cover some 30 yards, then it took a curving bend to the right. I jockeyed the throttle on my Go-Devil motor, powering over the shallow muck and decaying vegetation. Sawgrass fronds grew over the trail and brushed at my face and cap as I ran beneath them.

I plowed deeper into the cover – a hundred yards, then two hundred. The farther I went, the greater my anxiety became. If the trail dead-ended, I’d be in a jam! I’d have to push-pole my boat out backwards. There had been no place to turn it around. Still, I was resolute to motor as far as I could to see where the trail led.

Suddenly it opened into a pothole around a half-acre in size, and there was no blind on it. I was elated. This spot was open to whichever hunter got here first. I’d watched ducks work this area for several seasons. Now, when opening day arrived, I’d have another option for tossing out some decoys and trying to pull in a few birds.

I love scouting for new spots. It’s almost as much fun as actually hunting (but not quite!). Scouting is like looking for treasure and anticipating the pleasures it could bring.

More to the point, I scout both before the season for new places and during the season to learn where ducks are working. I call this long-term and short-term scouting, and this reconnaissance is crucial to my hunting success. If the duck supply dries up in a given area, I can usually find a fresh one somewhere else and move there in short order.

Hunters who would enjoy some new scenery, who are tired of empty skies, or who are frustrated by competition on crowded public areas should take matters into their own hands. They should resolve to uncover several new spots before the season opens. By changing their landscape, they might change their luck. They should also scout continuously while hunting is going on to stay in the action. Hunters who move when the birds do enjoy more consistent gunning.

Here are some pointers for scouting for the upcoming season. When following them, start early, keep looking, and understand that he who scouts best now shoots most when the birds show up this fall.

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