Recording the location of promising new hunting areas with a hand-held GPS will help ensure that you can find secluded spots again during duck season.
(Photo by John Hoffman)
Here are some tips on how to maximize your scouting potential:
- Use the Internet. Google Earth and similar websites provide high-resolution satellite imagery of just about any duck marsh you'd like to take a look at. It's like scouting from the air, except you can zoom in to check out particular spots in fine detail. When you identify a potential hunting site, look for ways to access it. Then make an off-season visit to the area to determine whether it has real possibilities.
- Talk to the experts. Waterfowl biologists, local game wardens, and other professionals often know about overlooked, underutilized public hunting spots. Not many hunters go through the trouble of seeking these professionals' advice. Those who do just might get a lead on a honey hole.
- Network with other hunters. Just this past spring a trusted friend gave me a heads-up on a rice field lease that had just become available. I contacted the landowner, looked at the property, researched it as best I could, and put down a deposit. This past season, my new lease provided some of the best duck hunting I've had in years, and I'm already looking forward to next opening day.
- Take a field trip. Go boating on lakes and rivers. Hike waterfowl management areas when they are dry and it's easier to get into remote areas. Take a drive to look for access points along rivers and streams.
- Knock on doors. The best time to ask permission to hunt from private landowners is long before the season begins. Take the time to chat and listen. It's all about building a relationship.
In summary, off-season scouting requires the moxie of a successful door-to-door salesman. Many trails will turn into dead ends. It's all part of the game. But make no mistake, sooner or later your efforts will be rewarded with the discovery of a productive new hunting area. These spots are just waiting to be discovered, and the excitement of finding one never grows old.
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