One of the toughest issues many waterfowl hunters face is gaining access to land. You always have the public land option where there’s a mad dash for spots, other groups set up 100 yards from you and shoot at your working ducks 150 yards up. We’ve dealt with this and I’m sure most other guys have too. Gaining access to private land is a tough opposition especially for someone who knows nothing about the area. Years ago, farmers were generally care free when it came to granting permission, but in this day and age they’re worried about the liability brought my having hunters with guns on their properties. It helps tremendously if you are familiar with the area and the people who live there.
That brings me to this past week. With the Thanksgiving holiday, I was back in my hometown with friends and family. Since I was going to be up there for a few days, I was bound and determined to locate some birds and hopefully be able to hunt. On Thanksgiving morning, I picked up Scott at 6AM and away we went. After 2 hours and over 100 miles of driving, we finally located some birds. They were using a field we saw birds in two weeks earlier. We tried like heck to find the landowner, but the listed owner in the plat book was nowhere to be found. We watched the birds hit that field again that afternoon and again on Friday. Friday afternoon, we were determined to figure out a way to hunt them. As we’re sitting there filming thousands of mallards, we noticed a guy leaving his house, so we stopped to talk to him. Luckily I knew the guy and he was very helpful on our search and told us where the new landowner lived. 5 miles later, we were knocking on a door. The guy was very nice, but said someone was already hunting his ground. He told us who the guy was and said to go talk to him and if he’s not hunting tomorrow, then we were welcome to go. On to door number two….. Another great guy who loved to talk waterfowl. He wasn’t hunting Saturday, told us good luck, and that other people who have tried hunting these birds hadn’t been successful.
Saturday afternoon we set up about 2, filmed some interviews, and covered the blinds in stalks. By 3, the rain began and the idea of filming was gone. Shortly after the rain started, the first group was on the way. We never had to blow a call. They came off the roost, got within a half mile, and locked in. The second wave was a little more finicky. They made a few passes, a few singles dropped out and landed in the decoys, but the majority of the birds were trying to land wide. On their fourth pass we knocked out four in the lowest group of 300+ mallards. Unfortunately, the rest of the thousands of birds decided to not even give us a sniff. I’m guessing they were used to hitting this field that already had hundreds if not thousands of birds in it. Our spread of 6 dozen wasn’t enough to trick them into joining. We ended up drenched, but the 7 we killed were worth the effort and hopefully we’ll be able to gain access again. The birds in this area don’t get much pressure and their roost generally stays open water until the deep cold hits in January.
We were very lucky to gain access to this field. We’ve tried for years to get in this area and all the hard work and road time finally paid off. A handshake, introduction, and a smile go a long way. It also help having a few contacts in the area that can help point you in the right direction and allow you to drop some known names when it comes time to asking the magic question. If you’re looking to gain access to private land, make sure to always talk to the landowner in person if possible and do so during daylight hours. No one likes an unexpected knock on their door in the dark. Always thank the landowner for their time regardless of gaining access or not. Be sure to report back to them on how you do and be sure to offer some meat to them as a show of appreciation. It doesn’t always come together like this, but it never hurts to try!