4 Must-Know Tips For This Duck Season

Oct 8, 2020 | BaseMap | 0 comments

Headlights illuminate as a labrador zigzags with its nose to the ground as you pull on a pair of waders. Rubber boots slip over your feet as you joke with a friend louder than you would have dreamed of during archery season.

The silence of September is not as fragile anymore and easily broken with more jokes.

In the distance, you can hear soft whistles and the occasional robust quack. Another challenging September spent in the mountains, bow in hand, is relegated to memory, and duck season is the perfect cure for the ups and downs of archery season.

Waterfowl seasons all over the country are opening and we couldn’t be more excited.

Below are some of BaseMap’s best tips for scouting early-season marsh and farmlands and heading home with a limit of greenheads, sprig, or widgeon.

Follow Birds on the Wing

Early season birds are often local with somewhat daily patterns. Hunters should be out in duck country in the evening, driving roads, and following flocks of birds into their roost.

Then the next day you should come back to watch those birds lifting off and heading to their feeding areas.

Using binoculars, or even using a window mounted spotting scope, is a huge plus in these situations. Driving to follow the birds is still a must, however, in the early season, most crops have not been harvested yet and tall corn, for example, will impede your view quickly. That’s why when the birds lift off, your engine needs to fire up.

Follow these birds for as long as possible, taking specific note of the access and terrains in between the roost and the initial feeding area. There’s a good chance the flock will land on private property, but if you know their flight path, you can set up on public access in between and call in any stragglers.

BaseMap Tip: Pay attention to public and private properties with BaseMap Layers. State specific layers can show you state access lands, walk in areas and management units. Nationwide layers can show Federal Management areas and more for cutting those birds off.

Knock Knock – Can We Hunt?

Don’t be afraid to knock on a door, or two. This can seem like a daunting task, but as a good friend of mine says, the worst the owner can do is say, “no”.

A little courage can go a long way in procuring one of the best spots you have ever hunted.

Earlier is always better when asking permission, as you don’t want to be the one hundredth person to be knocking on a door, just when the birds are flying.

While asking early, before the season starts, is usually the rule the reverse can also be true, however.

After birds begin getting pressured, they will look for any sort of water to land on away from their usual haunts. This could be an overly saturated field, or a small trickle of a creek. Landowners with these kinds of terrain may not be accustomed to getting knocks on the door like the big field owners, and they may be far more likely to allow permission.

BaseMap Tip: Check private property owners by tapping on your layers and then turning on the “Nationwide Private Land Ownership” Layer on the BaseMap App to find who owns which piece of land. This will give you the proper door to knock on, as well as a name to go along with it.

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Watch the Weather

You need to be glued to the 10 day forecast when scouting. Is there a storm front rolling in, how is the wind blowing and which direction does it normally come from? These are all imperative questions which should dictate which marsh you set up in and which direction to place your decoys.

If you are watching a consistent northern wind, you will know to set up your decoys in a pattern with enough room for ducks to land from the south.

Knowing if the morning is going to offer direct sunshine, or overcast will also give you key insight on how you should build your blind and how much grass to use as cover.

BaseMap Tip: To get a proper idea of wind direction and patterns, place a HuntWind marker on your hunting spot and check wind patterns and direction. The wind animation will easily tell you which direction the wind is moving, and you can use BaseMap’s satellite imagery to look at shapes of ponds. This will give you an idea of natural landing zones and how ducks will use the wind direction to land into your spread.

Know What They’re Eating

Cornfields, rice, wheat and sorghum are the obvious choices for what birds are eating, but if you are looking to get on birds on public land, you have to know the natural foods ducks target.

You can hunt on great looking ponds and sloughs all you want, but unless those bodies of water offer birds something to eat, you are only looking at part of the puzzle. Make sure you are familiar with the different natural occurring weeds and grasses in your state and monitor if those are appearing in your marsh, river, or pond setup. All it takes is for the next pond over, to offer these morsels and you will spend a long day watching birds pass you up without so much as giving you a look.

Just as how the elk woods in September hold a special place in our imagination, so does the sun rising on a chilly morning in the duck marsh. We hope you find new levels of success this waterfowl season and enjoy one of the most special times of year in the marsh.
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