I’m pleased to introduce Tyler Hand, a good hunting buddy. He is posting on OSR today and we look forward to more posts from Tyler – he has a wealth of experience to share!
One of my favorite ways to hunt waterfowl is to scout out and find what we refer to as “local honey holes” that ducks are using. This can include your neighbor’s cattle pond or flooded pasture, a creek or slough, a seasonal wetland or flooded timber. In the winter, storm water does not filter out and dissipate quickly like during other times of the year. Any little depression in the landscape can quickly turn into a waterfowl haven overnight with the passing of a large storm. Places that you never see birds near can become covered up!
The most popular style of waterfowl hunting is out of a duck blind on or near a large body of water holding large concentrations of birds. This method requires A LOT of gear, from boats to hundreds of decoys, blind construction and brushing it and the list goes on and on! But don’t get me wrong, I hunt this way hard from opening weekend to closing day, and this style can equate to not only seeing a lot of birds, but raising your season’s bag total to high numbers.
Hunting the local honey holes is often a much more simplistic style of duck hunting as it requires less gear and set-up time. But with this method of hunting comes its own challenges and devotion to being successful. Scouting, the act of observing an area without disturbing it, is vital. What we typically do is to find about a half a dozen places that could be potential “honey holes,” acquire permission to hunt them, and begin scouting them on a daily basis. If we observe over the course of a few days that more and more ducks are using a particular spot, then we plan a hunt for the next day. If you wait too long, the birds that were there several days ago can be long gone. The rule of thumb is “hunt where you saw ducks the day before!”
The easiest part is the actual hunt. We typically throw out a dozen or so decoys, species specific to what we observed. Realism is important here so use the most realistic, different position decoys that you can afford. I like to use four to six active decoys, two or three surface feeding or no head style decoys, a few butt feeders and a couple of sleepers. Remember that birds always land into the wind, so set-up accordingly. I prefer a crosswind or the wind from my back. Don’t forget about the sun either. No one likes to stare into the sun all morning long and the birds can spot you a lot easier if you’re not in the shadows. Hide as best you can because these birds know this spot and are quite familiar with its surroundings. If you stick out and the landscape doesn’t appear normal, they will catch on quick! There is no need for loud, aggressive calling. You may not even need to call at all. The ducks want to be where you are, so being subtle is key.
Local honey hole hunting is very rewarding and any duck shot brings a sense of accomplishment with it. You worked hard, spent many an hour scouting and patterning the birds, and being meticulous with all the fine details. High fives with your friends, a good neck scratch for the retriever and an appreciation for the birds is in order. Once you have finished your hunt, be sure to thank the landowner for his/or her generosity and offer them some of your bag. One last thing, make sure you do not over hunt these spots. That is an easy way to quickly turn a sweet spot into a deserted cattail hole! We try to let a hole rest for about a week before hunting it again. Hunting small local spots can be an easier, low-cost alternative compared to big water, theatrical production style hunting. And when done right, you can walk away with a hunting story that will be around for many years to come!
by Tyler Hand, pictures by Peter & Josh Mondrage