By Michael R. Shea
For many veteran waterfowlers, the thrill of scouting ducks and geese
is second only to the exhilaration of hunting them. Savvy stalkers of marshes and fields often log hundreds of miles in their pickup trucks each year searching for prime waterfowl roosting, feeding, and resting spots. They also spend hours studying weather reports, tracking the fall migration
, and mapping potential hunting areas.
Like detectives, these waterfowlers enjoy the work involved in putting together the pieces of the duck and goose hunting puzzle. They understand that the end justifies the means, and their extraordinary efforts are often rewarded with phenomenal waterfowl hunting.
The following 10 tips from these experts will help you scout more efficiently and effectively for better waterfowl hunting this fall.
1. Talk to Landowners Prior to the Season
Arliss Reed, an Avery pro-staffer from upstate New York
, recommends reaching out to landowners long before the fall flights arrive. "In an area that gets lots of hunting pressure, a farmer might see a few hunters a week during the season," he says. "But if you make a visit at the end of summer, you can usually beat the crowds and increase your chances of gaining permission and valuable information."
Reed visits landowners in August. After gaining hunting permission, he asks the farmer specific questions, such as "When do you plan to harvest that field?" Through such queries he learns when the field will be available for hunting. He then tries to discover the lay of the land by asking about different crops in various fields. The conversation usually turns to other fields and other farms that may also be open to hunting.
"I'm always sure to ask them if they want any birds," Reed says. "If they don't, at the end of the season I'll give them a gift certificate to a sporting goods store or local restaurant. It's just a little something that says thank you for sharing your land. I don't pay a dime to hunt anywhere, but I do buy a few gift cards every season."
2. Follow the Birds
"Birds in the air, tires on the road." That's how Clay Hudnall, president of Field Proven Calls, sums up his goose scouting philosophy. He and his hunting partners spend a lot of time scouting early-season Canada geese in central Kentucky
, following the birds as they leave their roosts.
"Early in the season, there are not that many fields available for hunting because the crops haven't been harvested," Hudnall says. "So in the morning we look for a roost, and then follow the geese with the truck. You may not be able to hunt where they're going, but if you stick with them long enough, you can usually find a spot to set up and decoy passing birds."
After locating where the geese are roosting, Hudnall will park the truck and wait for the birds to begin flying out to feed. He lets the first and second waves leave, then follows the third. "If the third group heads out in the same direction, I know that the roost will clear out and the geese are all going to the same place," he says. "If I lose them while following in the truck, I look for birds on the ground in that general area and usually find a good field to hunt."