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Banding Together for Waterfowl

Wood Duck Trifecta

Try these three strategies to bag more woodies
  • photo by Ryan Askren
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Jump Shooting

This is my favorite way to hunt wood ducks. It's a great fallback when other forms of hunting is slow, and you don't need an abundance of ducks to be successful. Sleeping in and heading out at mid-morning is perfectly reasonable, and you don't need any more gear than your shotgun, a pocket full of shells and camouflage clothing (although a few extra items like hip boots and binoculars definitely help).
The easiest place to jump-shoot woodies is on a wooded, meandering stream or small river with plenty of slack-water pools. If the banks are lined with mast-producing trees such as red oaks and beech, you're almost certain to stumble onto a few birds.

There are basically two ways to jump-shoot woodies. Slipping along the bank is a highly effective way to hunt a short stretch of stream or beaver ponds, while drifting in a canoe or other small boat is a better option for covering water. Either way, focus on river bends, eddies and sheltered coves where woodies are likely to gather during the middle of the day. Loafing wood ducks will usually give themselves away with ripples on the water and occasional squeals. When you suspect birds are nearby, locate them with binoculars if possible, then plan your stalk.

Whether you're on foot or in a boat, jump-shooting is great fun with a buddy. Boat hunters can take turns paddling and shooting. Bank hunters can split up to flank and flush a flock of ducks. In a perfect world, both hunters should have plenty of shooting.

Wood Duck Loads

While some hunters prefer a 20-gauge for wood ducks, a 12-gauge is a much more capable choice. Wood ducks are often hunted in areas with thick cover where a wounded bird can be virtually impossible to recover, and using heavier loads can help ensure clean kills. I prefer 2 ¾- or 3-inch loads of steel No. 4s and a modified choke for woodies. This combination produces a tight pattern that will deliver multiple pellet strikes on target, which is what you need to anchor woodies in thick cover. 



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