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Think Like a Duck

Adapt your hunting strategies to match shifts in the duck's behavior
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  • photo by Brent Gale
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by Matt Young

The biological needs of ducks change as the seasons progress. Here's how to adapt your hunting strategies to match these shifts in the birds' behavior

Migratory waterfowl are among the most fascinating and complex creatures in the natural world. While some other game birds may be warier or live in more inhospitable terrain, few, if any, are as transient and unpredictable as ducks and geese.

Just when waterfowl appear to have settled into reliable patterns of activity, hunting pressure or weather changes will cause them to alter their feeding and roosting habits. In other cases, great numbers of ducks can suddenly appear or vanish overnight following a strong cold front or heavy rains. In reality, unraveling the mysteries of duck behavior is a never-ending quest for waterfowlers, which, of course, is what makes the sport so challenging and rewarding.

Waterfowl biologists also dedicate their lives to understanding waterfowl and their habitats, except they are guided in their efforts by science rather than relying solely upon personal experience. Having completed years of rigorous study and training at universities and in the field, they know the many complex behaviors exhibited by waterfowl throughout the year.

Of particular relevance to hunters are behavioral changes occuring among ducks during the fall and winter that influence where the birds go, what they eat and how they interact with other waterfowl. To learn more about these biological events and how they relate to hunting, Ducks Unlimited interviewed several accomplished waterfowl biologists. Incidentally, all of these duck experts are diehard waterfowlers themselves, making their insights particularly valuable to hunters.

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