by Steve Hickoff
Upland bird hunters do it, and versatile waterfowlers can too.
Sure, ideally you can call flying ducks and geese into a blind-sitting situation near a decoy spread. What if that doesn’t work? You need to go to the loafing and feeding birds. If you are an action-at-any-price kind of duck and goose chaser, consider the latter tactic in your game plan this season.
Jumpshooting farm pond, freshwater river, and tidal creek ducks, plus loafing field geese in approachable locations, can offer an alternative when migratory birds aren’t moving. And sometimes you can sneak up on loafing midday waterfowl to simply warm yourself up between blind sitting times.
Admit it, there are days when decoy spreads and even the best calling just won’t work. Storms might push waterfowl into sheltered areas provided by skinny waters, where they hold, waiting out the weather. Even bluebird days might plant them on farm ponds, creeks, fields, and in sheltered swamps with preferred food sources after the morning flight. On such outings, a Plan B option is surely needed.
First you have to find the loafing waterfowl. Utility ATVs such as the Grizzly 700 Ducks Unlimited Edition can help you cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time, and put you into backcountry
territory where you can scout, then access distant ducks and geese on foot. You can use binoculars to glass likely holding spots such as skinny creeks leading to bigger waters, and make your move. Other times you can move into waterfowl haunts quietly on the solid chance they’ll be in likely holding habitats.
Park your rig at a distance. Using terrain to hide your movements, look ahead to see if ducks are rafted up on that water. Using sheltering cover to your advantage, approach corners, edges, and openings. Stay low, and slowly belly crawl into good flushing position, shotgun ready, and muzzle pointing in a safe direction. Ripples on the water ahead will sometimes key you into the exact presence of feeding waterfowl. In such situations always identify your target first before shooting.
While big numbers of sky-winging ducks might jumpstart your heart, it’s often best to pick out a single from the group, and drop it cleanly. To double on flushing waterfowl, first aim for a bird farther out, but that’s still in range. Drop it, and try to take one that flushed closer on your second shot.
Go to waterfowl if they won’t come to you. Jumpshooting is a great backup plan.