by Wade Bourne
Some days, public hunting areas provide top quality shooting, with plenty of ducks, a lack of pressure and birds rivaling those of the best private clubs.
However, other areas and days offer the opposite scenario – “duck wars,” similar to range wars of the Old West. Competition for good spots is keen and sometimes fractious. Encroaching “neighbors” are a source of aggravation. Calling duels and sky- busting are the norm. Boats running, hunters chasing cripples and a host of other disturbances inhibit a hunter’s chances of working ducks in close. All too frequently, the frustrations of public areas outweigh their pleasures.
Still, legions of waterfowlers hunt on public lakes, refuges and management units. For many, these areas are their only option. Thus, their fowl fortunes rise or fall according to their ability to deal with the pressure and stay one step ahead of their competition. Quite simply, those who hunt smarter fare better.
Following are tips to improve your duck hunting success on public areas. This advice applies both to areas where hunters are allowed to freelance-hunt and where they are restricted to hunting from fixed blinds only.
1. Go Early
Hunters who head out early will have access to the best spots. Some areas don’t allow hunters in before a designated hour, while others are open at all hours. Be sure to check regulations, and “out-early” the competition to lay claim to a good hole.
2. Go Late
If “early” isn’t inviting or feasible, go late. Go hunting after the “early morning rush,” and look for a hole where an early party has limited and left. Or, go late, head to a popular hole and “get in line,” waiting for the occupying party to leave. Frequently the best shooting on public areas comes in mid-morning.