John's Journal...

Where Ducks Hide with Outdoor Writer John E. Phillips

Day 4: Using Aerial Maps and Topo Maps to Locate Duck Hot Spots

Editor’s Note: If you’re tired of the competition and expenses involved when hunting on the big reservoirs and well-known duck marshes, here’s a surefire way to locate good duck hunting not too far from home by hunting smaller waters like potholes, beaver ponds and swamps.

click for Larger ViewClick for Larger ViewEven though I had learned a great deal from the three waterfowl specialists I’d interviewed – Gary Moody, Keith McCutcheon and Dudley White – the big question still remained. “How can I find more of these hot spots?” Keith McCutcheon and Dudley White provided a great deal of information on this subject. White depends on aerial photographic maps to discover potholes.

“Contact your local Soil and Water Conservation District for aerial photographic maps,” he told me. “Also, the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS), keeps aerial maps on hand because they oversee crops in each state. Talk with your county Agricultural Extension Service agent to find out how to get in touch with the ASCS. I also use topographical maps to locate small ponds and sinkholes. And, simple observation may be one of your best methods. Look for places in the pastures where there are clumps of trees. The farmer hasn’t worked that land for some reason, or those trees wouldn’t be there. Usually there’s too-much water where these trees stand, or perhaps the land is too low or not rich enough to raise crops. Some of these places may only be one-eighth of an acre in size, but you often will find ducks in them. A good resource person for finding pothole ducks is your county public works commissioner. Ask him or her about old water-filled gravel pits in your district, because you’ll often find ducks on them.”

Click for Larger ViewClick for Larger ViewMcCutcheon recommends topo maps, too. “When hunting Alabama, Tennessee or Mississippi,” I’d write the Tennessee Valley Authority for their topo maps. In other states, I’d consult the U. S. Geological Survey and the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers topo maps, which are available in many libraries. These maps indicate low and high spots. You will be able to pick out the places that should hold water during heavy rains and the ones that won’t have water during dry periods. Topo maps also show you year-round flowing streams that may have potholes within their flood plains. These may also be highly-productive waterfowl areas.”

After studying the maps and other information, McCutcheon suggests surveying the places yourself. “Check to see what kind of water and food are available. Even during the spring and summer, you can tell if an area will be a good pothole for ducks. And in the early fall, some ducks may already be on hand at the location.”

AmazonTo get John E. and Denise Phillips’ Kindle eBook, “The Best Wild Game & Seafood Cookbook Ever: 350 Southern Recipes for Deer, Turkey, Fish, Seafood Small Game and Birds,” click here. Or, go to, type in the names of the books, and download them to your Kindle, and/or download a Kindle app for your iPad, SmartPhone or computer.


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About the Author

John Phillips, winner of the 2012 Homer Circle Fishing Award for outstanding fishing writer by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), the 2008 Crossbow Communicator of the year and the 2007 Legendary Communicator chosen for induction into the National Fresh Water Hall of Fame, is a freelance writer (over 6,000 magazine articles for about 100 magazines and several thousand newspaper columns published), magazine editor, photographer for print media as well as industry catalogues (over 25,000 photos published), lecturer, outdoor consultant, marketing consultant, book author and daily internet content provider with an overview of the outdoors. Click here for more information and a list of all the books available from John E. Phillips.

Tomorrow: Impacting Your Hunting Land’s Duck Potential and Types of Duck Hunting

Check back each day this week for more about Where Ducks Hide with Outdoor Writer John E. Phillips"

Day 1: Hunting Ducks on Small Bodies of Water
Day 2: Knowing Ducks: What They Do and Why, and Where to Locate Them
Day 3: Knowing the Best Shooting Times to Take Ducks
Day 4: Using Aerial Maps and Topo Maps to Locate Duck Hot Spots
Day 5: Impacting Your Hunting Land’s Duck Potential and Types of Duck Hunting

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Entry 747, Day 4