By Mark Fike
Most people connect duck hunting with boats and for good reason. Nearly all duck hunting seems to be done with a boat. However, there are some hunters out there that are finding out that you can take a hike and come home with a limit of good eating ducks.
Hiking for ducks requires some deer hunting type of skills. Map reading, scouting, stealth and snap shooting are of essence, but the hunting can be fine and it is invigorating too. Hunters that are map or GPS savvy can do some electronic scouting to find swamps, sloughs, or potholes that are not very accessible to boats.
The next step is to figure out who owns the land and gain permission to duck hunt. A scouting trip with boots on the ground will be invaluable. Ducks are not in every pothole, swamp or slough around, but they generally will use many of them particularly when hunting pressure is high. The trick is to figure out which ones have good food sources or offer good roosting places and then go looking.
When approaching isolated waterholes, use a pair of binoculars to determine if any ducks are using the place. Look for ripples and water movement. Then confirm what is causing the movement. It may be a beaver or other animal.
Next, examine the cover that is available and determine the wind direction. I prefer to use all the cover I can when jump shooting ducks. However, the thicker the cover, the harder it is to be quiet on your approach. So, you will have to make some compromises on that approach. Be sure if there is a stiff breeze you put yourself near enough to get pass shots as the ducks head into the wind.
You will need no decoys, no calls, but you will need a good pair of waterproof boots you can hike in and if you have a good retriever, you won’t need waders unless you plan on crossing some water.
Again, scouting is key but you can actually use the midday hours to scout and jump shoot new territory. Examine a topo map of the area you plan on scouting or hunting and plan to walk along the edges of the water moving slowly as one might stalk deer. Use trees and brush to conceal your movement and carry a small pair of binoculars.
Be particularly aware of bends in the waterway. These are great holding places for ducks and excellent places to cut across country to get close to ducks before popping out to flush them. Creep up on the water very slowly and pay careful attention to the water’s surface. Tell-tale ripples may indicate birds swimming. Look in sunlit areas first as that is where most ducks will be on a cold day.
This season when your buddies are all hitting the big water and working hard to set up their spreads, hike to get your ducks. You will be very surprised at the quality of wingshooting you will encounter, not to mention the easy bag limits if you shoot well! Good hunting.