Yamaha Outdoors Tips — Fowled-off Change-Up

Matt Anderson photo

Matt Anderson photo

By Bob Humphrey 

Tired of the same old routine?  Put a little spin on fall fowling by targeting some lesser hunted species. 


Rail hunting was once quite popular but seems to be almost a lost art. These diminutive marsh birds offer a great early-season opportunity for some fair weather fowling, and a chance to bone up on your jump shooting.  The technique generally involves a pair of hunters: one shooting, the other poling a canoe or flat-bottomed skiff through flooded reeds or wild rice.  Like woodcock, the action can be hot and heavy when the flights are in.


Some waterfowlers consider coots or mud hens a nuisance or a trash bird.  But these lobe-footed, overgrown members of the rail family are actually decent table fare, and every bit as fun and nearly as challenging as their web-footed distant cousins.  You hunt them much the same as you would waterfowl.  Coot decoys might be a bit more effective than conventional blocks, and their naivete makes them easy targets for jump shooting.


Sandhill cranes are the opposite extreme from rails.  Seemingly the size of pterodactyls, these giant birds are sometimes referred to as the rib-eye of the sky.  Much like geese, cranes are usually hunted in a field blind, over decoys, and they can be called.  They’re notoriously wary and keen-eyed so maximum concealment is required.


Some states also allow swan hunting, typically by lottery permit.  Techniques vary.  Swans can be hunted over field or water spreads.  Large spreads aren’t necessary, but the birds are sometimes hunted over, and in conjunction with large snow goose spreads.  As with cranes, calling is often done by mouth.