New to waterfowl hunting? I am, too! What did I learn?

I have an admission to make.  I hadn’t hunted waterfowl until last week.  My buddies had.  In fact, one of my friends, Jeff, is an avid waterfowl hunter, so he took me, another friend, Rob, and Rob’s sons out to show us how it’s done.  

We decided to meet up for breakfast at a truck stop diner.  It was already turning out to be a “typical” morning for an outdoor adventure.  The weather had changed – 7 inches of snow last night – and we were excited.  I could immediately tell, however, that I’d have many lessons to learn.  You see, despite knowing better, I turned up in a blue coat and hat and all the others were decked out in their insulated camo.  I just hadn’t gotten around to buying gear just for one day of duck hunting.  My buddy rescued me as he allowed me to borrow some of his extra stuff.  

We went out to a small farm in Canyon County, Idaho.  It has a blind all set up and ready to go.  Before I knew it, we had put on all of our cold-weather gear and we were sitting in the blind listening to Jeff making duck calls.  Within minutes, thousands of ducks started to swarm overhead and a few would dive down toward the blind.  

Jeff making duck calls.

We started taking shots and missing a lot.  I learned that duck hunting is very different than hunting upland game birds.  As a beginner, I found it difficult to remain patient and wait for the ducks to get within range before taking a shot.  They seemed in range to me, but I quickly learned that my perception of distance was greatly distorted as the birds flew toward me instead of flying up from the ground and away from me.  We saw many birds come in and flare away, so I also learned that no matter how great you might think your blind might be, don’t let the birds see your face!   

Eventually, we found ourselves landing some shots.  The birds would come close and the boys would pop up and shoot.  This was fun.

What struck me about this adventure, besides having a better understanding of why so many like to duck hunt, is just how abundant ducks, geese, and other waterfowl can be when proper habitat is available to them.  Our blind was located along a natural waterfowl migration corridor, near a confluence of four rivers, including the mighty Snake River and multiple sloughs.  The surrounding farmland provides food, the riparian areas provide cover, and the rivers and estuarian habitats provide the water that waterfowl need for rest on their bi-annual trans-continental journeys.

Ducks congregating on private property.

By leaving a broader riparian zone and enhancing on-premises wetland areas, I suspect more waterfowl and other game will find refuge.  I wonder how quickly the landscape will shift and biodiversity will be further enhanced as private landowners are paid fair market value for allowing access to their property.  By reserving private land access through, outdoor recreationists are provided with controlled, otherwise inaccessible, access to quality, wild habitat.


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