Ducks Made Easy
What a Bushwhacker Needs to Know to Take Ducks
Editor’s Note: My friends and I for years have used our woodsmanship, stalking skills and stealth to jump-shoot pothole quacks, stream ducks and creek ducks. If you conduct a poll today to learn how many hunters jump-shot ducks as opposed to those who set-up decoys, build blinds and own retrievers, bushwhackers probably will make up 20 to 40 percent of all those who hunt waterfowl.
I've duck hunted all my life, and most of the time I bushwhack ducks. I'm a hunter first and a duck hunter second. I'm not a duck caller, I'm not a duck decoyer, I don't own a retriever, and I don't have a necklace with 10 or 20 duck bands on it that I wear every time I go hunting. I learned to bushwhack ducks as a boy, when my family and I didn't have decoys, retrievers, duck boats or much knowledge about calling ducks. However, we consistently bagged as many, if not more, ducks than most of the hunters who had all the right stuff.
David Hale, one of the founders of Knight and Hale Game Calls, in Cadiz, Kentucky, and nationally-known turkey hunter, once told me, “I probably took more turkeys before I learned how to call turkeys than I did for the next 10 years after I learned to call turkeys. I just hunted those turkeys like I hunted deer, and I was successful." This same successful principle of hunting turkeys like you do deer applies to successful duck hunting too. If you're a hunter first, and a duck hunter second, you consistently will take more ducks than a world-class caller will or someone with 1,000 decoys or a world-class retriever.
Here's why. A bushwhacker will:
* find where the ducks feed, roost and loaf and identify the routes they take in-between these areas;
* determine the best way to approach the ducks, and just as importantly, the best way to leave the ducks’ area without the birds seeing or hearing him;
* know exactly where the ducks leave from or light down, and therefore won't take as many passing shots, which usually won’t spell success as much as incoming or leaving shots will;
* understand how to get in close to ducks without their ever knowing he's there;
* know how to shoot ducks, so the webfoots don't realize what’s happened and may return to that same spot within 10 to 20 minutes, giving him a second shot at that same flight;
* keep hunting pressure low on the ducks to ensure he can take ducks regularly from the same spot, week after week;
* determine when the ducks have left a region and understand how to find them in a new area;
* know what weather conditions he’ll need to have to pinpoint ducks in certain locations;
* have ears as keen as a coyote, eyes as sharp as an eagle, the stalking ability and the patience of a bobcat and the camouflage of a chameleon.
I believe to become a good bushwhacker, you must possess as much, if not more, skill and knowledge of ducks as a good duck caller and an experienced duck-hunting guide does.
Tomorrow: When I Enjoyed Bushwhacking At Its Best