Outdoors column: Waterless water fowling

by Jeff Weaver
Contributing Columnist

It’s only natural to equate waterfowl hunting with water, but take the water out of water fowling and you have created the perfect recipe for introducing kids and inexperienced hunters to a sure fire way to have a great time afield.

Pictured from left following a successful goose hunt are: Jenna Wahl, Cody Sturgill, and Gavin Ratajczyk. Photo by Jeff Weaver

Pictured from left following a successful goose hunt are: Jenna Wahl, Cody Sturgill, and Gavin Ratajczyk. Photo by Jeff Weaver

Why is field hunting such a great way to introduce young hunters to the wonderful world of water fowling? It’s dry, it’s warm and it’s extremely safe when properly set up by an experienced adult who is an experienced dry land water fowler.

The ingredients to a successful hunt are rather basic. Sod fields are dynamite early season. Geese love grass. Just look at any golf course. Green hay fields are a close second. I really like a hay field that still has round bales left in the field. The bales make great natural cover when locating your lay-out blinds. Bean fields after harvest are a magnet to both ducks and geese. Bean fields are best before they are tilled up and prepared for next year’s crop. Left over plant material is critical in properly camouflaging your lay-out blind or other form of concealment. Also, any waste grain that is still present is a great food source for birds who are packing on the groceries before a long migration to their wintering grounds.

The ultimate grand-daddy of fields has to be a freshly picked corn field. Again, corn stock material works wonderfully for concealing lay-out blinds. You can even lay on you back between the rows and cover yourself with corn stalk material and be well camouflaged.

Not every field will be a winner. Scouting for roosting areas which are adjacent to your field will increase the odds of having birds working your area. One of the tricks is to not bust the roost. Locating too close to the roost may give you one good hunt, but if the birds feel pressured, they’ll move on and your field will become inactive.

Another scouting trick is to locate a field which is between the roost and a feeding field. These types of fields may be miles from the roost, but if you have waves of birds flying over a good looking feeding field, there is a strong probability that a good set-up can easily attract ducks and geese to take a look.

Equipment necessary for a good field hunt for ducks and geese can be as simple as a half dozen honker decoys or decoy shells, a dozen or so mallard decoys, a spinning wing decoy, flag and a lay-out blind. If you have never used a lay-out blind, this piece of equipment is essential. They provide great concealment if properly camouflaged with corn, bean or green hay material. Just remember to match your surroundings. This is important and is easy to accomplish. If you’re hunting with kids or inexperienced hunters, lay-out blinds are directional so you are just naturally pointed in the right direction. If the weather is cold, just the design of most lay-out blinds acts as an awesome windbreak. If you’re with youngsters and you want to make sure they are comfortable, don’t be afraid to put a blanket in the blind. I find that more often than not, kids, even grown adults become so comfortable, that falling asleep during a lull in the action is a common occurrence.

Use of a flag should be used when targeting geese, and spinning wing decoys should be used when targeting mallards, pintails, widgeon, gadwalls and wood ducks. Our hunting groups have strong evidence that geese are hesitant to come close to a spinning wing decoy. If you have the ability to legally control the on or off switch on a spinning wing decoy, I would highly recommend shutting them off when working a flock of geese.

Field hunting is gaining popularity amongst the water fowling community. With the serious over populations of geese across the country, more farmers are allowing access to fields to try and control the burgeoning population of light and dark geese. I guarantee that once you successfully have a dozen honkers hovering over your blind on a crisp fall morning, you will be hooked for life. Just make sure to share your experience with a youth.

Jeff Weaver is a contributing writer to the Outdoors page.

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