John’s Note: Okay, in my opinion, I consider hunting ducks a different sport than shooting ducks. Shooting ducks means you go to a body of water, put out a bunch of decoys, have a retriever in the blind and wait for the ducks to fly by, so you can call them to within gun range. Hunting ducks involves bushwhacking them, learning where ducks live, eat and sleep and developing a stalking strategy to get in close enough to the ducks to jump shoot them when they come off the water. I’m not brazen enough to declare one technique better than the other. Actually I use both tactics throughout the season. But because duck shooting has become so sophisticated in many areas, duck hunting/ bushwhacking has begun to fade from popularity. Also, if you like to eat ducks as well as shoot ducks, there’s not a more-effective technique to bring waterfowl home for the table than bushwhacking.
I love to paddle a canoe to find and take ducks. Or, you may want to use a one-man fishing boat, a Flat-Bottom Jon Boat or a boat that you can maneuver with a paddle and feel comfortable shooting out of that will serve the same purpose as a canoe for quacks.
I never get into any kind of boat in a stream through the woods without wearing a pair of SOSpenders’ PFD, available from several suppliers on the Internet, and not because I’m scared I’ll drown. But, I have turned over in a canoe during duck season with all my gear on and tried to put on or swim with a conventional PFD, a difficult, if not impossible, task. You’ll forget about the lightweight SOSpenders while you hunt or shoot. If you get into trouble, pull on the tab. A C02 cartridge inflates the SOSpenders, allowing you to hold onto your gun and get out of the water quickly and easily. No one plans to fall into the water when they hunt for quacks. Sometimes it just happens, always when you least expect it, and most of the time when you’re unprepared.
If you float a quiet stream without much rushing water, you often will hear the ducks as you float down the stream before you reach them. Or, the ducks may surprise you and flush from places you haven’t expected to see them. If you come to a sharp turn, expect to flush ducks from the down-current side of that bend in the creek. Any time that you’re floating toward a bluff with a cutback under it, you’ll often locate ducks in that cutback. A point of land jutting out into the water may have ducks on its backside in the calm water there. Ducks usually will float on the down-current side of obstructions like grass beds or logjams that run into a creek. A current break in a stream means you can expect to see ducks and get a shot when the ducks flush.
Once you flush the ducks, shoot and then pick-up the birds you’ve taken, paddle back to the spot where the ducks have sat on the water before you’ve flushed them. Mark that spot on your GPS as a waypoint. Wherever you’ve found ducks the first time you’ve floated a stream or creek, you probably will locate ducks there later. When you get home, store that information in your computer or in a logbook. Then each year, if you’ll hunt those same streams by floating, you can expect to find ducks in those same places.
Too, remember after you jump-shoot ducks on a stream, hold in that same spot for 10 or 15 minutes more. Often ducks will fly down or up the stream, turn around and then return to the same spot where you’ve flushed them. You generally can get a second passing shot at one or more of those same ducks.
Do I bushwhack ducks? You bet. Can I find and take ducks? You know I can. Will I go home without some ducks for dinner just because ducks don’t fly? No, I probably won’t. These bushwhacking strategies work for me, and they’ll work for you if you like to hunt ducks.
To learn some recipes for preparing ducks for the table, go to “The Best Wild Game & Seafood Cookbook Ever: 350 Southern Recipes for Deer, Turkey, Fish, Seafood, Small Game and Birds” at http://amzn.to/WkbLRg. For more information on hunting, check out John E. Phillips’ books at www.amazon.com/author/johnephillips for print, Kindle and Audible books and www.barnesandnoble.com.