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Why I Waterfowl Hunt

waterfowl huntI like to think of myself as a versatile hunter. I chase turkeys, squirrels, rabbits, deer and doves throughout the year with plenty of dedication and passion. Despite the gusto I give each game animal, I believe every hunter should have one type of hunting by which he or she defines themselves. For me this is waterfowl.

My obsession with waterfowl borders on the unhealthy. What is so special about waterfowl hunting is that it takes some of the best things from other hunting pursuits and then adds in it’s own special characteristics that make it unique. Here’s what I love about it:

Camo

Waterfowl have incredible eyesight and in order to be successful you have to get your camo right. I have a closet full of different patterns that I like to mix and match depending on where we are hunting. The search for concealment extends to our blinds which give us plenty to stay busy with during the off-season. And of course there’s facepaint which has become all the rage in the hunting world and for good reason. It’s effective and it looks pretty cool in photos. My daughters call it my ‘war paint’.

Wing-shooting

I love my deer rifle, but my shotgun is my pride and joy. Waterfowl hunting means shooting animals on the move. It’s fast-paced and requires constant practice to improve. For me it’s also the most challenging and quite frankly the most fun type of shooting I do.

Weather

There’s a reason that waterfowl hunters get a reputation for being crazy. We welcome adverse conditions because they bring on some of the best action we get. Rain, sleet, cold. We take pride in hunting with ice in our beards. We’re like the postmen of the hunting world.

Dogs

Upland hunters get to take their dogs into the field and I’ve loved hunting behind them when I’ve had the opportunity, but usually they are out in front and the interaction with them is mostly all work. With waterfowl hunting, the dogs are in the blinds with us, sharing a snack and snuggling up to us in cold weather. On solo days our dogs make great companions and I have been known to have long conversations with my lab. When they get a chance to make a picture-perfect retrieve it almost feels like a bonus.

Gear

Hunters love their gear. If the saying, “He with the most toys wins,” then waterfowlers are the champs. Our style of hunting can require dozens of decoys, plenty of clothing, a variety of blinds, boats, waders and the list goes on. I won’t speculate about how many marriages have been placed in jeopardy by the quest for more gear, but I will say that my Cabelas wish list is obscene.

Water

Especially when hunting ducks, we take to the water. Whether it is a knee-deep pothole or the open ocean, waterfowlers are happy to be on the water because that is where the birds are. It adds an extra dimension to our hunts and feels a little more like an adventure.

Calling

I use calls with deer and turkey and occasionally even with squirrels. It’s a chance to interact with animals and calling adds an extra dimension to any hunting trip. With waterfowl hunting, effective calling is the mark of an experienced hunter. When you turn a whole flock in your direction, your hearts skip a beat. Working in tandem with other experienced callers is an art itself. And let’s face it, a lanyard full of calls is the universal symbol of waterfowling. You won’t ever catch me in the field without mine.

Repetition

Lat year I shot my deer on opening day of gun season. I just needed one doe to fill my freezer and while I was happy it was a successful hunt, it was weird driving home and knowing they season was already over. With waterfowling I can shoot plenty of birds all season long and not feel greedy about it.

Friends

Waterfowl hunting is often a team sport. Because it doesn’t require perfect silence you can have a good conversation when there aren’t birds overhead. Working as a team to call and flag birds into gun range is extremely gratifying. Having friends there to take your picture after the hunt and recount the best moments of the day is even better. The older I get the more important I find these friendships to be in my life. Waterfowl hunting gives me lots of opportunities to spend time with competent hunters in pursuit of a sport we love and for that I am grateful.

 

Mike Dwyer is a writer and outdoorsman from Louisville, KY. His work can be found at Ordinary Times and at mikedwyerwrites.com. Mike is also active on Twitter and Facebook.

Am I Concealed Enough When Duck Hunting?

Concealment is one of the most important factors in successful duck hunting. In order to pull birds in close, the hunters must blend with the surroundings. Whether it a corn field from a layout blind, a levee on a flooded rice field, or a secluded pocket of a lake, taking time to blend into the native vegetation will help draw ducks into range. Layout blinds must be mudded to reduce shine and hunters should spend time before the hunt using the native vegetation to break up the outline of their blind. Boat blinds need a dark base color on both the inside and outside of the blind. You also need to utilize elements from the environment you’re hunting in. Cattails, young willow trees, or entire stalks of corn can be fastened to the outside of the blind. Be sure to cut shooting lanes to allow shots at ducks flying by, but don’t make them so big that they ruin your hide. Pit blinds, while 90% hidden already still need work done to the top. When duck hunting, birds have an aerial view and can see right down into the pit. The top or lids of the pit must be concealed. Using vegetation from around the are will help the hide, but you must also remember to keep the lid closed as much as possible to keep from being seen. These are just a few tips you can use next season in order to fool weary ducks and improve your duck hunting.

Snow Goose Migration – March 13, 2012

Snow Goose Migration

 

We are going to go ahead and post the latest snow goose migration update even though new surveys aren't available yet.  The incredibly warm weather has the birds in the express lane north.  Birds have now crossed into areas of North Dakota and are moving north in a hurry.  South Dakota has large numbers of snow geese all across the state as well, and some guys even starting to kill some juvenile birds.  If you plan on going there to hunt, you better leave now because it's not going to last long. The forecast for Pierre, SD the next 7 days calls for highs ranging from 65-77.  That's unheard of for mid March!  Take a look at the snow cover data from the past two years:

2011

snow goose migration

 

2012

snow goose migration

Major differences and this explains why the birds are in areas 1-2 weeks earlier than normal.  It started all the way back in January when many of the snow geese spent their winter in areas of Illinois and Missouri instead of Arkansas and Louisiana. They had a head start returning north to their summer grounds and now with no snow cover on into Canada, they'll continue their push north in a hurry!  If you're planning a trip to the Dakotas I hope it's soon because they'll move through in a hurry with this weather.

Further south, a decent number of birds remains near Squaw Creek.  There aren't as many as there has been, but hunters are still enjoying some success.  There are even huntable numbers remaining in areas of central and west central Illinois.  The predictions of a spread out migration seem to be ringing true.  The main masses of birds are long since through these parts of Illinois, but the concentrations of birds remain in select areas.  It requires lots of driving to find the birds and you have to go in with the mindset that you will not see a ton, but with limited competition from feeding flocks on the ground you should have some success.  One thing that continues to be noted both from reports and what we've been seeing is the lack of large groups of juvenile birds.  They are just aren't there this year.  The juvies remained mixed in the with the adults birds over the course of the winter and are making their move north with them as well.

Don't forget to check out new episodes of Fowled Reality every Monday right here on our site, Vimeo, or YouTube.

Here is some snow goose hunting action from opening day of the conservation order season in Illinois.

 

Snow Goose Migration – March 7 2012

Snow Goose Migration

 

The snow goose migration continues to run ahead of schedule due to the abnormally warm winter and now beginning to Spring.  Good harvest numbers are being reported through northern Missouri, west central Illinois, and now into portions of Nebraska and South Dakota.

 

The large masses of juvies that typically bring up the rear of the migration never seemed to show this year.  The young birds stayed mixed in the the adults due to the strange weather this year.  This is the point in the season when in typical year, southern Missouri and Illinois snow goose hunters are not seeing many birds, but what they are seeing, they're killing.  This year is not the case.  Few groups of snow geese remain across these areas and most hunters aren't wasting their time chasing the snow geese.  The birds seemed to be running a week to 10 days ahead of schedule this year.  Some birds remain in parts of west central Illinois and with the warm weather success has been great, but they'll be gone in the coming days.

 

Further west in Missouri, large numbers of birds remain staged in areas around Squaw Creek.  It's cooler there today, but temps will be on the rise by the weekend and into the 60s by early next week.  Hunters are reporting huge numbers of birds and are killing 30+ a day in each field due to the number of juvies around.  On the good weather days, adults are being killed as well.  The latest survey from Squaw Creek shows 327,000 snow geese remain on the refuge with many many more in the area.

Squaw Creek aerial Survey

 

Hunters in Nebraska and South Dakota are killing birds as well.  Nebraska hunters seem to be in the same boat as Missouri with a split of juvies and adults.  South Dakota snow goose hunters are seeing/killing mostly adults.  The leading edge of birds has crossed of I90 which puts them about halfway through the state.  With the forecasted weather over the next week, they'll continue to make a strong move north and will likely be into North Dakota by early next week.  The forecast calls for 60+ degree temps pushing as far north as North Dakota next week.  What snow pack is there, will be gone in a hurry and you can bet those temps will be accompanied by a south wind sending birds back toward their summer ranges.

snow goose migration

As always, don't get excited when the first push of birds shows up.  They're the adults birds and they've seen it all.  Unless you want the exercise and wasted time of setting decoys to kill a couple birds, be patient and wait.  In this case, you won't have to wait long after they start showing up because they're going to be moving north in a hurry!

 

Here's one of our videos from earlier in the season where we were snow goose hunting with no ecaller.

Snow Goose Migration – March 2, 2012

Snow Goose Migration

 

The snow goose migration continues its track northward as Spring temperatures begin to show.  The masses of leading edge birds continue to hang out in NW Missouri and parts of Nebraska and Kansas. It looks like much of the country will experience warm temperatures next week and the birds will likely make a large jump north as the snow disappears.

 

The snow goose migration is strung out from Arkansas to parts of south east South Dakota.  Small pockets of birds can still be found in Arkansas and what birds hunters can find are very friendly and decoy well.  Further north into Illinois and Missouri, the story is about the same with pockets of birds in certain areas.  The southern Illinois waterfowl survey showed 41,000 birds in southern Illinois which is near the 5 year average. Hunters must spend the scouting time to find the birds, but if you do, you're in for a great hunt.  It all comes down to if you want to see birds or kill birds.  For some seeing a million birds is great, for others, they'd rather see a few thousand and kill a hundred.  The numbers in NW Missouri continued to be strong until mid week.  Squaw Creek's survey showed a large drop on birds on Tuesday.

Squaw Creek NWR Survey

Southern Illinois Waterfowl Survey courtesy of the IDNR

Last week over a million were reported, while this week the number dropped to over 300,000.  Blake was in NW Missouri Tuesday and Wednesday and and saw crazy amounts of geese.  The birds are still there, they must have just been on other bodies of water in the area and not on Squaw to be counted.  Success in those parts has been anywhere from 20-50 birds a field with some guys shooting near 100 birds occasionally.  Even though, the leading edge of birds are near, there are still a great number of juvies mixed in.  You'll have a few thousand fly over and a handful of young birds will drop out and come in.  With the snow line starting in South Dakota, the birds have some more room to move north, but the lack of snow melt this year has left much of the rainwater basins in Nebraska dry.  There is little area for birds to roost in these parts so they are continuing to hold in Northwest Missouri.

snow goose migration

 

 

The warm weather next week should help the birds make the jump into southern South Dakota and the back half of the snow goose migration will begin moving in the Squaw Creek area.  Hunter success should continue to be great and could even increase with a larger number of juvies moving into the area.

 

 

Our trip to Northwest Missouri was one to remember.  It was quick, but very successful!  in 1.5 days with two guns, we took 84 birds!  The wind cooperated, but we had some rain on Tuesday.  The birds didn't mind though.  Wednesday the wind was screaming at 40mph+ and the birds wanted down.  Groups were locked and barrel rolling at 300 yards away.  The wind made shooting a challenge, but we still had a great shoot in the morning!  Here's a few of the birds we took. Our snow goose hunting take was about about a 50/50 split of juvies and adults.

 

snow goose migration