Duck Hunting 101: How to Hunt Ducks for Beginners

For generations, Wingshooter has held the various waterfowl species found in their region in high reverence. There’s just something about duck and goose hunting that stirs something within us. Perhaps it’s the beauty of a breathtaking sunrise or the anxious twitch of a well-trained retriever.

Whatever the reason, the tradition of waterfowl hunting has stood the test of time, and items like decoys and calls are often looked upon as highly collectable heirlooms.

Many duck and waterfowl hunters have problems harvesting ducks and geese with any consistency because of several reasons. Things like reading speed and distance, learning to shoot nontoxic shots, shooting from awkward positions, and identifying targets all complicate matters.

Duck Hunting 101 for beginners tips and Guide

How to Hunt Duck? Beginners Duck Hunting Guides

But a successful day hunting waterfowl doesn’t have to be any different from any other day afield. Let’s look at how you can increase your success in the duck blind and the goose pit.

How Do I Start Duck Hunting? First Time Duck Hunting Tips

First of all, to have a successful waterfowl day, you’ve got to be where ducks and geese want to be. Setting up in the parking lot of your local sporting goods store usually won’t provide you with much action, but good scouting to find the right hunting location can pay huge dividends.

And being at that right place at the right time can mean the difference between just another cold weather day in the marsh and a great day in the blind.

Gears to Take for Duck Hunting

One of the many mistakes hunters make before the planning is not taking complete note of actual duck hunting gears. After a few hunts, we tend to ignore these small pieces when we all think of specialists. But at the right time, when the duck is at the corner, and you need a blind bag, or gun shell, you remember, oh no! you have forgotten to bring this on the field.

So, making a shortlist or a checklist for duck hunting gears & accessories is a small thing that doesn’t need to take lightly.

Here are few things you can note down:

Ammunition and Guns for Hunting Waterfowls:

  • Ammunitions for gauge shotguns
  • Your preferred guns, shotguns
  • Backpack for duck hunting
  • Muzzles
  • Steel Shot 
  • Breathable waders
  • Different shells (different shot size) 
  • Blind bag
  • Gun and shell cases
  • Binoculars
  • Duck calling 
  • Decoys and wood ducks
  • Choke tubes and hunting clay 
  • Stakes for cutting bushes
  • Decoy accessories
  • Goose decoy
  • Mallard decoys
  • Duck Calls
  • Duck Stamp
  • Sporting Clays

Clothing for Hunting Ducks

  • Duck hunter’s cam
  • Breathable hunting chest wader
  • Hip waders
  • Bib if you are going wet lake 
  • Gloves with proper camo
  • Camo shirts
  • Waterproof camo pants for river and lake hunting
  • Rain jacket for upland hunting, if the weather is shore
  • Socks

If you are hunting with your dog, then these gears are essential to have:

Dog Hunting Gear 

  • Dog food
  • Dog vest and clothing
  • Dog whistle
  • Dog blind
  • Water and supply for dug dogs
  • First aid kit

How to Duck Hunt Without a Dog

Since waterfowl and other migratory game birds have a tremendous vision, proper concealment is critical to a great day in the duck marsh. And You do not have a dog, then the blending method is very effective.

You don’t have any extra person to blend, or no one else will make noises. So, stealth is the right technique here. Check out the videos for hunting duck without a dog.

Duck Hunting Fundamentals on Blending Techniques

Matching colours to blend into the background is crucial, and the use of camouflage netting, prefab blind material, and natural vegetation can be the difference between success and failure.

Except for the wild turkey, the duck may have the best vision of all game birds. They have an uncanny ability to pick up the slightest movement. Anything that looks unnatural to them as they fly over your hunting location can send them off looking for another landing spot.

Many hunters mistake exposing their hands and face to ducks, snow goose, and Canada goose at just the wrong time, so if you must look up or move your arms, it’s essential to do it at the right time. If you must move, do so when the incoming birds are to your side or going away from you.

What is the Best Way to Duck Hunt with Ground Blind?

Ducks have a tremendous vision. They can pick up the slightest movement, causing them to flare. A suitable blind and camo help even the odds.

If hunters had the chance to see what the birds see from overhead, they would wonder why any self-respecting duck or goose would ever come into a duck decoy spread. In many instances, they can see movement, shiny faces, reflections off of gun barrels and spent hulls, and much more.

Ensure that you look at your blind from above wearing a perfect hunting vest, if possible, because that’s what the birds will see. Except for some sea ducks, their view is not from the ground or water level. Pick up anything that looks out of place, and you’ll have a chance at more shot opportunities.

How to Use the Decoy Rig for Waterfowls

A good decoy rig can be very helpful if placed in the right spot. In other words, there’s more to putting out decoys than simply throwing them out randomly. With mallard calls or duck calls, you can attract them to the decoys with excellence.

Today’s commercially produced goose decoy and duck decoys are much lighter in weight than their hand-carved counterparts of yesteryear. As a result, larger spreads are possible.

Where to Find the Ducks

Here are few places in South and North America where you can find ducks. Just before the duck hunt planning, you should check rules and regulations for duck season of North America and other provinces: 

  • Stuttgart, Arkansas
  • Chesapeake Bay, Maryland
  • Great Salt Lake, Utah
  • Central Valley of California
  • Peace River Country, Alberta
  • San Francisco Bay, California
  • Charleston, South Carolina
  • Texas Panhandle
  • St. Louis, Missouri
  • Eastern Arkansas

Types of Duck for Hunting

There are different types of real ducks for hunting in different areas around the United States. Some, of the ducks, are really popular, and some are not so much. Understanding the difference between duck and gooses is important for better skills in hunting. Here is the list of ducks. 

  • Hooded Merganser Duck
  • Paddle Duck
  • Diver Duck 
  • Madagascar Teal Duck
  • Eurasian Teal Duck
  • Mallard Duck
  • Calendar duck
  • Muscovy Duck
  • Northern Pintail Duck
  • King Eider Duck
  • American Black Duck
  • Red-breasted Merganser Duck
  • Common Merganser Duck Mandarin Duck
  • Wood Duck
  • Redhead Duck
  • Gadwall Duck Long-tailed Duck
  • Cape Teal Duck Bufflehead Duck

Puddle Duck Hunting 101

Puddle-duck spreads are usually placed differently than are diving ducks or sea duck rigs. Puddle ducks consist of those species that lift off the water vertically.

They are commonly hunted from coast to coast in North America, with the most common puddler being the mallard duck. Other puddle duck species include pintail, widgeon, gadwall, teal, wood duck, and shoveler.

Where to Find the Puddle-Duck

Understanding where the paddle duck population is essential to find them quickly. Since they feed by picking vegetation or insects off the deep water or by tipping their bodies upward to feed on vegetation underwater, they usually prefer more shallow deeper water for feeding. So, waterfowl habitat can normally be found there. 

They are particularly fond of grain crops such as rice, corn, milo, and soybeans. In wooded or marshy areas, their food sources include seeds, insects, and acorns.

How to Duck Hunt with Decoying for Puddles

Most shots at puddle ducks will be taken as the birds are decoying and moving back up vertically. So, decoy hunting tips for these ducks are a bit different for paddle ducks.

If a shot can be taken as the teal is coming down, the lead picture should be established below the selected target but not too far below in most cases.

How to Shoot Ducks with Accuracy

It is a mistake to start the gun above the bird and swing the muzzle down through it. If the weapon is mounted and the muzzle is over the target, the bird will be blocked out by the muzzle.

It is better to bring the muzzle to the leading edge of the descending bird and establish a lead picture under it. It is critical to maintain a focus on the target and not stop the gun.

Once a hunter’s movement is detected by the bird, it will usually change its flight path and ascend quickly. The leading-edge focus should switch to the bird’s head, and the muzzle can be brought either slightly under or into the teal, black ducks, or other flyway species to start the shot sequence.

The muzzle is then moved to the desired lead picture with the target in focus, and the shot is taken. Keep in mind that you will have more time than you think, and getting the visual focus and proper insertion point will be critical to success.

How to Shoot a Flying Duck

Many shot presentations at diver ducks and sea ducks are similar to overhead or passing puddle ducks. The presentation angle of such shots is more crossing, so they take a visible lead to be successful.

These birds can be traveling at speeds of 40 to 60 miles per hour. In some instances, that speed is even greater. As a result, the forward lead required to hit such targets can be significant.

If the birds are relatively close, any of the prescribed shooting methods can be used. If they are at a distance of 35 or more yards, some form of pull away or maintained lead will work best.

Shooting a Passing Duck

Since most of the duck species are large, they appear to be flying much slower at a distance than they are. As a result, the lead picture for a successful shot of often more than most waterfowl hunters think.

Some duck species from beak to tail are three to four feet in distance, and that distance alone is enough to confuse a lead picture.

When shooting a passing duck, try focusing on the head of the bird. Move the gun so that the insertion point starts at least at the head, if not slightly forward. This will help ensure a visible lead picture, which will be needed on long passing shots.

Diver Duck Hunting for Beginner Duck Hunter

Diving ducks are a different breed altogether. Instead of taking off vertically, divers run across the water until airborne. They tend to prefer open water, and they usually feed on vegetation or shellfish found under the water’s surface, often to depths of 20 feet or more.

Most divers have a fast-wing beat, and when coming into a decoy spread, they appear to rush into the rig instead of descending into it. This flight characteristic is a significant factor that separates diver hunting and puddle duck hunting. Since divers prefer open water, hunting for them is often done from stilt blinds in shallow bays or layout boats surrounded by decoys.

Sea Duck Hunting Tips and Guides for Beginners

 The sea duck species like eiders and scoters are large, hardy birds with a very thick coating of down to keep them warm in the harsh conditions in which they live. As a result, most sea duck hunters use either a 10-12 gauge shotgun with a big shot to cleanly harvest these birds.

They are often hunted from shore blinds around shellfish beds in coastal regions. They tend to congregate large flocks on the water but will readily decoy to an attractive spread. Sea duck hunters don’t usually call to the birds to attract them.

They leave that job up to their decoys, and since the drake eider ducks are primarily white, a number of those types of decoys are usually included in a spread.

Sea Duck Hunting Challenges

Since most sea ducks are relatively large birds and typically fly low over the water, they can present the shooter with various challenges.

First of all, the size of these birds often makes it difficult to judge their range from the gun. As a result, it is wise to gauge the distance to the most distant decoy and take shots only when the birds within range.

The size can also betray the read on the speed of the bird. Large birds are often traveling much faster than they appear, and since most of these birds will be taken either crossing or decoying, lead pictures will usually have to be seen.

 Since they fly low over the water, it will be easy to shoot over them if the insertion of the muzzle doesn’t get online with the migratory bird or migratory waterfowl as the gun is mounted.

Goose Hunting Guides

Goose hunting is quite different from duck hunting. The birds are bigger, and they appear to be flying at a much slower speed than they are. It makes another type of hunting method to a better result for little difference for the goose hunters.

Most of the time, shooters are either in a pit blind or lying down in a decoy spread when hunting geese. The visual perspective from ground level is undoubtedly different from a seated or standing position above the ground.

Geese don’t like to see high objects in their landing area, so most goose hunting is done from layout or pit blinds.

Decoying Tips for Geese and other Waterfowl Hunt

When shooting decoying geese, the leads are not nearly what they are when the birds are taken passing. On most landing geese, get the gun into the bird on the leading edge or traveling direction. Keep it moving with the bird and pull forward to the lead you think will get the job done.

Passing Geese Shooting

Shooting passing geese is a much more complicated process. Because of the size of the birds, many hunters have trouble determining the distance of the shot. And because geese can fly up to around 60 miles per hour, the leads at a distance are significant.

Watch the Weather for Hunting Ducks  

In addition to food and water, the weather is probably the most crucial consideration in the doves or mourning doves from one area to another. Even in areas with substantial seasonable concentrations of birds, a splash of rain, heavy winds, nearby thunder, or even heat lightning can stimulate a wholesale migration.

When any of these weather conditions occur, an area swarming with doves one day can empty overnight. This is especially true in many regions of the Southwest, which are often plagued by tumultuous weather in late August and early September.

Early Season or Late? What is the Duck Season?

While the bulk of the dove migration occurs in late summer and early fall, some birds wait until October and November to move southward. This has resulted in the creation of a split hunting season in some areas. There are occasions when the late teal season can be even better than the favored September opener. Running concurrently with other bird hunting seasons, this latter period is often overlooked

in favor of other upland species like deer hunting and hunting other wildlife. However, this is the time of the year that I like to hunt doves. Dealing with hordes of hunters, soaring temperatures, and unpredictable dove numbers is not my preferred hunting venue.

In the nighttime, it is wise to take a powerful hunting headlight or a flashlight, even if you hunting in the late evening, don’t forget to take one.

All of these elements are missing from the later duck hunting season. Quite frankly, it’s rather lovely to hunt when the weather is a bit nippy, and you’re not standing elbow-to-elbow with a bunch of other hunters.

Last Few Words on Duck Hunting Lessons

Waterfowl hunting is truly a traditional sport in many parts of the world. Because of the different sizes and speeds of the waterfowl species, it is a real challenge for a hunter to become an excellent shot on all of them. But shooting is shooting, and proper focus and technique will go a long way toward your success.

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