John's Journal...

Ducks Made Easy

Why Bang Banks

Click to enlargeEditor’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.

You have to adapt your bushwhacking techniques to the type of terrain and waterways that you hunt. Primarily, I’ve referred to flood-plain hunting, however, in more-mountainous terrain, you may find bank banging more productive. If creeks or small streams run through your hunting area, you’ll notice that when the main water on a river or a lake becomes really rough or ices-up, the ducks will move into those small streams and creeks where the water still flows to avoid the rough weather. Most of the streams and creeks I hunt have bends, eddy holes and small pockets in them where I’ll find slack and eddy water. Ducks can hold out of the weather and often feed in these places. Generally each year when the weather gets bad on the main water, these smaller slack-water areas will hold good numbers of ducks. If the region you hunt for ducks has drop-offs as much as 3 feet or more from the edge of the creek bank down to the water where the ducks hold on the land you hunt, you can't beat bank-banging tactics for bagging quacks. If you’ll stay behind the bank and move close to the creek, you usually can hear the ducks feeding in those slack-water regions. Click to enlargeBy moving slowly and quietly, you either can belly crawl or stay low and move up to the edge of the creek while you remain hidden behind the bank. Once you come up over the lip of the creek, and the ducks see you, they’ll flush, and you can take them. Before you shoot the ducks, you need a recovery strategy already in place. The ducks that you shoot when you bank-bang often will fall in the creek or on the opposite bank. Know where you can cross the creek, where you can wade the creek, and where the ducks will float down the creek into an eddy area where you can pick them up. Here’s where a belly boat comes in handy. An effective bank-banger pre-plans a duck-recovery strategy as well as a hunting strategy and getting off the shot. 

Why Canoe For Quacks:
I love to paddle a canoe to find and take ducks. Or, you may want to use a one-man fishing boat, a flat-bottom johnboat or a boat that you can maneuver with a paddle and feel comfortable shooting out of that will serve the same purpose as a canoe for quacks.
I never get into any kind of boat in a stream through the woods without wearing a pair of SOSpenders’ PFD—not because I’m scared I’ll drown. But, I have turned over in a canoe during duck season with all my gear on and tried to put on or swim with a conventional PFD, a difficult, if not impossible, task. You’ll forget that you’re wearing the lightweight SOSpenders while you hunt or shoot. If you get into trouble, pull on the tab. A C02 cartridge inflates the SOSpenders, allowing you to hold onto your gun and get out of the water quickly and easily. No one plans to fall into the water when they hunt for quacks. Sometimes it just happens, always when you least expect it, and most of the time when you’re unprepared. If you float a quiet stream without much rushing water, you often will hear the ducks as you float down the stream before you reach them. Or, the ducks may surprise you and flush from places where you haven't expected toClick to enlarge see them. If you come to a sharp turn, expect to flush ducks from the down-current side of that bend in the creek. Any time you're floating toward a bluff with a cutback under it, you’ll often locate ducks in that cutback. A point of land jutting out into the water may have ducks on its backside in the calm water there. Ducks usually will float on the down-current side of obstructions like grass beds or logjams that run into a creek. A current break in a stream means you can expect to see ducks and get a shot when the ducks flush.

What Tips Will Help You Bushwhack Stream Ducks:
Once you flush the ducks, shoot and then pick up the birds you’ve taken, paddle back to the spot where the ducks were sitting on the water before you’ve flushed them. Mark that spot on your GPS as a waypoint. Wherever you’ve found ducks the first time you’ve floated a stream or creek, you probably will locate ducks there later. When you get home, store that information in your computer or logbook. Then each year, if you’ll hunt those same streams by floating, you can expect to find ducks in those same places. Too, remember after you jump-shoot ducks on a stream, hClick to enlargeold in that same spot for 10- or 15-minutes more. Often ducks will fly down or up the stream, turn around and then return to the same spot where you’ve flushed them. You generally can get a second passing shot at one or more of those same ducks.

Okay, It's Only My Opinion:
In my opinion, I consider hunting ducks a different sport than shooting ducks. Shooting ducks means you go to a body of water, put out a bunch of decoys, have a retriever in the blind and wait for the ducks to fly by so you can call them to within gun range. Hunting ducks involves bushwhacking them, learning where ducks live, eat and sleep and developing a stalking strategy to get in close enough to the ducks to jump-shoot them when they come off the water. I'm not brazen enough to declare one technique better than the other. Actually I use both tactics throughout the season. But because duck shooting has become so sophisticated in many sections of the country, duck hunting/ bushwhacking has begun to fade from popularity.  Also, if you like to eat ducks as well as shoot ducks, there’s not a more-effective technique to bring waterfowl home for the table than bushwhacking. Do I bushwhack ducks? You bet. Can I find and take ducks? I can. Will I go home without some ducks for dinner just because ducks don’t fly? No, I probably won’t. These bushwhacking strategies work for me, and they’ll work for you if you like to hunt ducks.

Check back each day this week for more about "Ducks Made Easy"

Day 1: What a Bushwhacker Needs to Know to Take Ducks
Day 2: When I Enjoyed Bushwhacking At Its Best
Day 3: Why Not to Go Get Your Ducks Immediately
Day 4: What Equipment You Need to Bushwhack Ducks
Day 5: Why Bang Banks


Entry 539, Day 5