Here are some hard lessons learned in waterfowl hunting failures.
Being a new hunter is difficult, but being an experienced hunter in a new place can really test your commitment to the sport. Waterfowl hunting has been my passion for a while now, and it has taken me to some beautiful places, with some amazing people, and made great memories. I have been fortunate in life to move around the country a bit and experience waterfowl hunting in a variety of settings. The perennial new guy, always trying to learn, always on the move. Reinventing myself as a waterfowler, taking what I’ve learned and hoping to apply it across the board.
Along the journey, I’ve had many successes and even more failures. Here are some of my best lessons learned from bouncing around this country chasing these birds that we all love.
They are the same birds. Just different.
Hunting mallards and pintails in wheat fields of North Dakota is not like hunting mallards and pintails in the rivers of central Illinois, or the coastal marshlands and timbers of the Carolinas or the deep south. Take time to learn about your birds, scout the heck out of them, watch their behavior. Observe how and when they feed, fly and just fart around. Spend the time scouting and learning the birds. It is worth it. Take notes of what you’re seeing. Take pictures. Consider blind and hide positions. It will be different.
Gaining access to private land can be difficult, but not impossible.
Knocking on farmers doors “not sounding like I’m from around these parts” can make it more difficult or it’s a conversation starter. I always lean for the positive side. Spend more time telling them about what you won’t do to their land, how you’ll be respectful, willing to work, and even to share the meat. Ask if they hunt and would like to join you some time; they just might. Don’t be afraid to knock on doors. Nobody has ever hit a home run without first swinging the bat.
Public land and waterways can be awesome.
Put in the keyboard time to find out where. I’m not talking about social media scouting – look at the state’s wildlife management areas or federal areas. Most states tell you what birds, and in what numbers, were harvested previous years, and sometimes even from what blind spots. You must put in the time to find those records and read through them all. This has proven to be invaluable to me, many times over. Talk to the state department of wildlife, Mr. or Ms. Green Jeans can be your friend.
Don’t be afraid to make new friends.
I have made more connections sitting down next to a random guy at a bar, or just being friendly around town, than from any door I have knocked on. The same goes for attending local conservation banquets. I go to them all and try to be active. Talk to people. Most are nice.
Do not get discouraged or lazy.
When a clear majority of your experience with waterfowl hunting comes from areas that are loaded with birds, you may become accustomed to that success more often. It can be discouraging; I know it was for me. But then I thought about my efforts, how they were kind of, well, lazy. Ponds and creeks would look “ducky” so I’d set up there. Having done zero scouting. Still, somehow, I was amazed that my awesome decoy spread did not spell doom for any birds in a 50 mile radius. All because that worked somewhere else. That is just being lazy. So, I drove more than I care to remember, I walked in countless swamps, knocked many a stump with my boat, got lost in the woods trying to find a hole. Boated around coastal marshes, got the truck stuck, lost my cellphone … I think you get the point here. Work hard, and you’ll find the birds.
These are just a few gems from my overall experience with new regions. I’m preparing to move yet again to the bottom of the Midwest – so I’ll be doing it all over. Again.
Last modified: May 2, 2020