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Off-Season Scouting Tips

Now's the time to locate good hunting areas for next season
  • photo by Ducks Unlimited
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—By Wade Bourne

When is the best time to look for a new duck hunting spot? Anytime you can. Savvy hunters are always alert for an opportunity. It may be a new spot on public land, a lease that suddenly opens up, or a property purchase that can provide reliable hunting opportunities for years to come. Regardless, there's no closed season on scouting, and no end to the possibilities hunters can uncover.

Over the years I've made a habit of scouting year-round, and have found that late spring and early summer are especially good times to do it. For example, several years ago I was bluegill fishing in early June on northwest Tennessee's Reelfoot Lake. The water level was high after a heavy rain. A friend who had spent his life guiding on the lake told me about a hole back in the timber that was hard to reach but offered good duck hunting when the water was up in the winter.

I decided to go looking for it. My friend had given me vague directions and pointed out the location of the hole on a map. So I began an exploration in my Go-Devil rig. I motored along narrow boat trails and through thick brush and cypress timber. If I couldn't go one way, I'd backtrack and head another. The water was shallow and the cover dense.  But eventually I found the honey hole—a half-acre opening surrounded by ancient cypress trees. It was just right for a boat blind setup and a dozen decoys.

A friend and I returned on opening day the next November. As dawn broke, our first shot was at a big drake black duck that dropped in without circling. Since that morning, I've called this spot the Black Duck Hole. I've enjoyed several good hunts there over the years, but only when conditions are just right.

The point is that off-season scouting can lead to some valuable discoveries. But like a good detective, you have to keep alert to all possibilities and investigate thoroughly when a lead pops up. 


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