Duck hunters in general are an odd lot.
Where else can you find a comparison to someone who enjoys sitting outside in a swamp when the temperature is hovering below freezing or the sleet and snow are blowing sideways at hurricane force speeds. No where, no way or no how. Duck hunting is almost like an addiction, where the thrill and the action of a late season diver hunt or the tornado of a flock of mallards trying to get into a harvested grain field overcome the harsh cruel elements of the weather.
How about a flock of teal coming in like a squadron of fighter jets on steroids. Maybe it’s the sheer elegance of the king of waterfowl, the canvasback. It is these types of scenarios which keep waterfowlers hooked for life, coming back for more punishment by the elements of harsh weather.
Being a successful waterfowler is not an easy task. Not all swamps are duck factories, neither are most large lakes. Attracting massive flocks of migrating divers like bluebills, goldeneyes, buffleheads and canvasbacks involves the basic requirements of food and the ability to rest without being harassed or bothered by boaters or other water related activities.
Divers seem to be pushed by inclement weather.
Hunters who hunt large bodied of water cherish a stiff northwest wind and temperatures which tank well below freezing locking up many of the small bodies of water into an icy grip, forcing ducks south through the state to open water locations. What’s interesting about this pattern is that diver ducks will stay in a new location as long as possible if there is open water, there is ample food sources and they can raft in large numbers without being disturbed.
When it comes to swamps and small bodies of water, anything is possible.
Early season scouting can usually pay dividends for early season success. Beaver ponds are a favorite location for this hunter. Wood ducks, teal and mallards will all call these animal made type waters home. If a brood of ducklings were raised on these types of waters, even better yet.
I really like the beaver pond that has some wood stick-ups, or dead trees, and some flooded grass. It seems as though these types of natural occurrences in the water attract bugs and larva which act as food sources. In swamps or small bodies of water, food sources are going to be the main driving source in attracting ducks. Sago, celery and wild rice act like magnets when it comes to attracting waterfowl. If you are lucky enough to have a small body of water which has all of the above and also freshwater shrimp, you will really have hit the jackpot.
Freshwater shrimp are easy to identify if they are present in a body of water. These small creatures will adhere to anything they come in contact with. Waders will be covered, as will decoy cords and wet dogs.
Waterfowl hunting locations, whether large water or small sloughs which produce, are coveted sanctuaries to serious hunters.
If you are ever invited to share an experience with a true die-hard waterfowler, make sure you let them know how much you appreciate the invitation to spend some time afield. Also watch to see how simple successful hunters operate keeping the three basic ingredients in their favor; concealment, location and wind direction.
It is this simple formula and a wealth of time spent in the field which will always put more ducks in your bag.
Jeff Weaver is a contributing writer to the Outdoors page.