It is a wonderful time to be a duck hunter. Populations of birds are high, water levels, (at least in the upper Midwest) are good. Now, may very well be the “Good old days”; take advantage!
Another great part of being a duck hunter in the second decade of the 21st Century is the ability to do some pretty effective scouting sitting in your underwear at home. By using the internet you can vastly improve how you spend your time finding potential honey holes.
Here is my strategy.
I read…. a lot. Yes I do enjoy a good story or article on hunting birds but I also crave to hear about where and what conditions others find their game. Then I look for similar areas or similar conditions.
I like to also study the harvest and migration reports. Here is a secret; don’t pay too much attention about the current reports you read, they are already old. Read the reports from 11 and half months back. Hot times of the year for duck and goose hunting stay pretty consistent. Except for maybe the extreme of the flyway (far north and far south) the fluctuation from year to year isn’t all that extreme. If you are where there was a large concentration last year it is a pretty good bet there will be birds there at the same time this year; maybe not the MAX number but probably good numbers.
Check out the hunter chat boards too. Sites like Waterfowltalk.com are a great place to gain insight in the overall quality of hunting in a large area. DON’T ask about a specific marsh, lake, or section. People HATE that. Most are happy, even excited to talk about their best days and type of cover they hunted. Keep it general and you will have no problem learning about an area.
You can always post a swap hunt request/offer. I have never done it for a waterfowl hunt but I met a great friend I have had for years by swapping a Montana Wilderness Elk hunt in the Bob Marshall for an Iowa Turkey hunt. For 5 years straight Mike and I hunted Elk together.
Now here is the best. Google Earth. If you don’t have it loaded on your lap top right now you are making a mistake.
Using this tool you can scout out fields, hidden marshes, lakes, potholes, and river bends. Out on the upper prairie (North Dakota and Eastern Montana) you can identify likely land owners. I point mark several promising areas, go to maps and get the fastest directions, and then spend my time scouting the most likely productive areas. With diesel at near $4.00 a gallon and the Duck truck with the Honker Hauler behind it getting about 9 miles a gallon, saving on the driving directly contributes to more Avian Fully Flocked Canada decoys in my set up!
At a time in history were we can cook our food in two minutes; check my office mail at the stop light on the way to work, look up the hunting regulations on my smart phone in the blind, and compare the costs of case of shotgun shells from seven different retailers in just seconds, you can also save time scouting.
Until I see you in the field, Be Safe, be good, and BE LUCKY!