Waterfowl hunting time: scouting small-water ducks

Combining aerial photos with boots-on-the-grouse scouting can lead to plenty of early-season, small-water duck success.

When it comes to duck hunting, I’m certainly not an expert. I entered the world of waterfowl late in life and have been playing a game of catch-up for about five years. Any greenhead is still a trophy to me, as is a Canada goose. That’s one of the reasons I focus on smaller, easier-to-hunt ducks.

If there is any situation where I believe I’ve got things figured out fowl-wise, it’s small-water, early-season ducks. Woodies, and to a lesser extent teal, have helped me survive the infancy of my duck hunting-career, and it has a lot to do with my devotion to whitetail bowhunting.

This may seem like a strange connection, but stick with me. I like to bowhunt waterholes – a lot. Those also tend to be the places where wood ducks spend their time, so just by coincidence I already understood what woodies like to do in late-September and early October.

I’m also an obsessive scouter when it comes to deer, so scouting for ducks comes somewhat natural. I like to find public land with difficult access, then use aerial photos to zoom in and see if there is any surface water. If there is, I’ll slip in with the binoculars and glass at first or last light. Not all ponds have ducks, but enough of them do to make it worthwhile.

Accomplish that task right now, on the cusp of the opener or during the first week of the season. Any pond you see with a few woodies on it now will have a few woodies on it tomorrow, and the next day … until they’re done trickling through. After that, mallards or other duck species may replace them, or they may not. Determine that by keeping on the glass, and to get pond-side at sunrise to see who shows up.

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