Duck Hunting 101: How To Scout For Ducks

Scouting is one of the most vital parts of a successful hunt. If you’re not scouting, I would argue you’re just getting lucky when hunting. So let’s talk about how to maximize your time and adequately scout so you can consistently have killer hunts!

I’ve broken my scouting process into 4 steps to keep things simple. That way, you spend less time wishing the birds were where you’re hunting and more time hunting where the birds want to be.

Texas Cinnamon Teal Hunt

Step 1- Use Your Maps

I use OnX maps, but I couldn’t always afford a subscription, so I started by using Google maps with the satellite layer.The first thing I do is look for new locations that might be where ducks like to hang out. That could be crop fields, ponds, marshes, or creeks. I mark EVERYTHING that looks ducky.

I prefer to stay within an hour's drive of my house but feel free to venture out as far as possible. My initial pins are on public land because I know ducks will visit these areas, and I won’t have to ask permission to hunt here.

However, I mark other private land locations nearby because public land is often crowded, and ducks will go searching for a quieter and safer place to rest.

Step 2- Put Miles on Your Vehicle

Now it’s time to drive to all the pins you’ve dropped on your map. It’s best to do this before hunting season starts so you can walk to the area and get the layout of the land without disturbing another hunter.

In most places, you won’t be able to see from the road, so bring your hiking boots. You mustn’t go tromping across private property on which you don’t have permission; this will make getting permission impossible, as you’ve already upset the landowner.

Once you’ve determined several locations that look like ducks will be there during the season, keep those on your map and delete the others you won’t use.

Step 3- Find the X

Now it’s time to get out before and during duck season for scouting. Drive to your spots and locate the exact location the ducks are hitting. So if they’re hitting a field, you want to mark exactly where the biggest group is; this is called the X.

If the birds are on one end of the pond, mark that spot. I’ve had hunts where we missed the X by 100 yards and went from having a chance to limit out to only shooting a few ducks. It matters that much!

The X is where you want to set up your decoys and hunt because instead of convincing the ducks to come over to you, they’ll already have their minds made up about where they’re going.

Step 4- Get Permission

When hunting private land, this is the essential part of scouting because it doesn’t matter how many birds are there if you don’t have permission to pursue them.

In my neck of the woods, getting permission is a toss-up. Some people don’t mind hunters as long as they pick up after themselves and don’t tear anything up, and others will slam the door in our faces just for asking. My advice for getting permission is to be polite and represent hunters in a positive light.

Someone else might be hunting their property this season, but you might be able to hunt it next season. Once you have permission, ask the landowner if there are any special rules they have for using their property, and be sure to follow them.

Cut’Em!

Now that you’ve gotten permission and found the X, it’s time to set up your dekes and start dropping ducks as they pile in; hah, if only it were that easy!

To consistently have good hunts, you must dedicate a lot of time to scouting and hunting; if you don’t have time to do it correctly, it’s best to hire a waterfowl guide to do it all for you!