The various ways waterfowl are hunted offer outdoorsmen a lifetime of unique experiences to pursue. This factor alone draws many hunters to the sport. While the mission is still the same, duck hunting in the eastern flyway is vastly different from the hunts that take place in Kansas.
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This is due to the diversity of waterfowl species and the habitats where they’re hunted. You’ll see shortly why waterfowl hunting is a lifelong pursuit for many outdoorsmen and women in all walks of life. There’s always a new style to try.
When the average person thinks of duck hunting, this is what they think of; it’s the iconic photo of a hunter leaning against an oak tree in a forest flooded by knee-deep water. Most waterfowl hunters dream of limiting out in a flooded timber hole. The Mississippi flyway has a majority of the flooded timber in the US. However, there are patches of it across the nation.
For this style of duck hunting, you’re standing in the water the entire time looking for ducks searching for a safe place to hang out for a while. The water usually doesn’t get deeper than your waist. This hunting style made surface drive motors so popular on duck boats because they can handle the shallow areas where duck hunters need to get.
Living near a lake, I did a lot of main lake duck hunting with my dad growing up. We would look for a little cove that sets up for the wind but offers the ducks some protection. The key is for your decoys to be visible to the birds from their primary flight path. The biggest struggle is most often staying hidden. A boat is often the best way to reach prime spots, but many lakes across the country offer walk-in hunting opportunities.
Pit blinds are popular because they’re an easy hide. However, they’re only legal on private land and expensive because you have to build or buy the blind and dig a hole large enough to set it in. Pit blinds come in various sizes and styles, but generally, it’s a box burring in the ground with a top that opens to allow hunters to shoot the incoming ducks.
They’re usually found on the pond's edge or in the middle of a field. Pit blinds are very comfortable because you’re sitting in a chair waiting for the next volley. Some waterfowlers have grills to cook breakfast in the blind.
This hunting style is one of the most labor-intensive ways to duck hunt. It’s very similar to hunting flooded timber, except there are very few mature trees to stand next to. You’re scrambling to find shrub brush, willows, or Cyprus trees to stand next to for cover.
You can sink deeper in the mud than the water is deep, so you must watch out for soft spots. Even with a surface drive motor, you can get stuck and have to walk several hundred yards to the best area. Ducks love these areas because there’s lots of food available and predators have a difficult time reaching them.
In my experience, duck hunting in a river is best when other bodies of water are frozen. The moving water stays open longer and gives waterfowl a place to congregate. Waterfowl will use a river to navigate, so finding a little hole near the river has typically treated me well when everything else is not frozen.
You need a boat to scout and reach the best spots on a river, but some river spots are accessible from public hunting areas giving walk-in hunters decent opportunities. There are many ways to hunt a river, but generally, you want to find a shallow area with a sandbar near calm water and hunt there.
Kayak duck hunting is becoming more popular every season. Hunters either use their kayak to reach remote spots that are too far to walk and surface drive motors can’t go or they hunt from their kayak like a layout boat.
Kayak hunting is quickly becoming one of my favorite ways to duck hunt because it’s easier to hide than a boat, and many manufacturers are making kayaks more hunter friendly. I use my kayak for hunting in various places, from the main lake, river, and marshy areas.
If there’s one style of duck hunting I’ve done more than any other, it’s hunting a pond. There are a couple of ways I hunt ponds. My favorite is setting up a spread and a hide and shooting them as they decoy.
The other is to jump shoot. This is where you sneak over the pond dam and shoot at the birds as they’re flying off. This is less work, but in my experience, it’s not as enjoyable. You can also jump shoot fields with deep ditches running through them.
Layout blind hunting is one of the best ways to hunt a field. The low profile allows you to hide almost anywhere, so you can hunt precisely where the birds want to be.
This hunting style requires full-body decoys, silhouettes, or silo-sock decoys to imitate birds walking around on the ground. While you can use layout blinds near water, they’re mostly used in a dry crop field.
Hunting sea ducks and diver ducks from a layout boat is very different from any other hunting style. You typically take a larger boat a few miles out to open water and set up long lines, which are decoys connected by a string in a long line. Then you anchor the layout boats in place and climb in as the big boat anchors far enough away so that it doesn’t disturb the ducks.
While I tried to cover all styles of duck hunting, I know I’ve missed a few because every waterfowl has a unique approach and style of hunting. However, this list of duck hunting styles will give you a general idea of what to expect when waterfowl hunting. If you’ve never been duck hunting before or are new to the area, it’s wise to hire a guide to have the greatest chance of success.
Updated on December 6, 2022
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