Jump hunting ducks can be tons of fun, inexpensive, and a great way to use the middle of the day to bring home some birds. On this episode I share 7 keys for being more successful hunting ducks on foot. 

Jump hunting is the practice of trying to sneak up on ducks to get “the jump” on them. It involves stealth with the intent to get into position and then ambush birds on the water or flush them and to shoot them out of the air. 

Hunting ducks on foot dates back to the dawn of duck hunting. It is both challenging and effective and enables you to bring home ducks while requiring only minimal gear and time spent scouting. 

Your goal is to get as close to the birds as possible before taking a shot, within 30 yards is the target. It is easy to underestimate the distance, in fact most people do. So, you must get closer than what seems necessary, especially since birds will instantly flush and move further away from you the moment you are detected.

Using terrain to close that distance is key, this will help you avoid being seen or heard by the ducks. Another key factor is wind. Wind creates noise and motion in the woods, masking you approach. Then if you move when the wind blows you can become nearly invisible. 

When shooting at birds on the water you want a long-range range setup, ideally with a very tight choke tube and denser than steel shot. I like to use an extra full choke with bismuth shells. Steel can work just great at short to medium range but it loses a lot of power at long range. Bismuth retains energy further out enabling you to hit harder at range. 

Similar to turkey hunting, your goal is to hit the ducks in the head and neck so you want a very tight pattern with a lot of pellets. Bismuth #4 shot is ideal. HEVI XII in #6 works even better but is much more expensive. Consider carrying a handful of high-grade shells and a tighter choke just for these kinds of hunts.

Note, you do not want to use actual turkey loads and chokes because then you will not be able to shoot birds when they flush. But that kind of setup can work ok shooting geese on the water or the ground due to their long neck.

Listen to the podcast episode for all of the tips.

 

As the seasons progress so does duck hunting, in fact each period of the duck season requires different strategies and focus points to be as effective as possible. On this episode I talk about the different phases of the duck season and what is unique about hunting during each of them.

Duck season can be divided into three phases in many states.

  1. Early Season – This is when things are warm and green. You are primarily hunting local ducks or early migrators.
  2. Core Season – This is what you often see on TV, the migration is on, and birds are flying through on a regular basis looking for places to stop and rest.
  3. Late Season – The water is freezing up and ducks become more and more concentrated on open water.

Each phase of the season requires unique strategies to get the most out of it.

Listen to the episode for all of the details.

Are you at risk every time you walk into the woods hunting ducks, geese, doves, turkeys, and pretty much anything with a gun? Are you suffering irreparable damage to your hearing on every hunt? The sad answer is yes, but there is a way to stay safe and protect both your hearing and your future. We are going to dive into that and more on this episode!

Duck hunters know there are risks with firearms, deep water, and the elements but there are other dangers they face every time they walk into the woods. It is not just a danger of something that could happen, this is happening on every hunt to every hunter unless they do something to protect themselves. And that is hearing loss caused by firearms use.

To help me talk about the problem and the solution I have Bill Dickenson with me today, Dr. of Audiology, Lifelong hunter, fellow believer and founder of Tetra Hearing, a company that may be doing more than any other to change the lives of hunters young and old.

Hearing loss from hunting is kind of like radiation exposure, sometimes the ill effects are immediate but more often they are cumulative over time, slowly creeping up until you realize you have big health issues. And the issues go far beyond just not being able to hear as well, that is only the tip of the iceberg. 

The only good thing about a terrible hunt is when you can learn from it and help other people avoid what happened to you. On this episode I talk about the worst duck hunt of my life and how I wish I had known the answer to a very important question before I went into the woods: how do you humanely and quickly dispatch a live duck that makes it into your hands? 

No matter how much you practice, how tight your choke tube, or how good your ammunition, there will be times when you wound or cripple a duck that needs finished off. The hunter’s goal should be to kill the duck as quickly and humanely as possible to minimize suffering and ensure the duck does not get away for prolonged suffering. 

Not knowing how to do this led me through a traumatic series of events that became the worst duck hunt of my life. Had I heard this simple podcast episode first, it would have saved me so much trouble and saved a duck much more suffering as well. 

Here is the most concise document I’ve found with methods to kill a downed duck. The cervical dislocation is the main one I mentioned in the episode. Fact-Sheet-Dispatch-of-Duck-CD-Method-2019.pdf (gma.vic.gov.au)

So much goes into a duck call, but what makes it sound good to ducks? On this episode I interview a duck call maker, hunter, musician and fellow podcaster to better understand what goes into a duck call, what really matters in the field, and how you can navigate the marketing clutter to find a duck call that is right for you.

The main goal of a duck call is to sound like a duck. It’s that simple. But most duck calls are judged by how well hunters can play them as musicians. Duck calling competitions are marvels of skill and experience, but they often sound far from what a real duck is like.

Sometimes real ducks make calls that hunters would consider quite lousy but that is because our perception can be skewed. There is another truth though that sometimes ducks do respond well to sounds that real ducks just do not make. Be it instinct or curiosity, you can have some success hunting ducks with calling sounds or sequences that do not exist in nature.

But for the new hunter, duck calling can be a rather simple affair. The goal of this episode is to talk through some of the feature and marketing of duck calls to help you discern what kinds of calls are right for you and what is worth spending your money on.

Riley is not a sponsor and I get no kickbacks, but at my request he agreed to give a 10% discount to all New Hunters Guide listeners. Just go to his website https://rylohgamecalls.com and use the code nhgcast at checkout for the 10% discount.

Every duck hunter needs a choke tube, and it is only a matter of time before you become obsessed with finding the best one. But it doesn’t need to be that complicated or intense. On this episode I talk about the basics of finding the right choke tube and I share some high-level research-based insights.

Almost all shotguns have changeable choke tubes these days. What not many people are willing to admit is that most of them will do the job just fine for hunting ducks at regular distances of 30 yards. But there are some gains to be made with finding higher quality chokes and matching them to the distance you take shots at.

Some chokes are made for certain types of shells, and some are made for specific shells themselves. My research hasn’t proven either way if they really can engineer chokes better for a specific shell, but you can count on choke manufactures having tested those shells heavily so the risk of the choke not performing with them is minimal.

Do aftermarket choke tubes improve performance? According to my firsthand field testing, they absolutely do, with some guns and some stock chokes. Stock recessed or flush chokes can often be replaced with extended aftermarket chokes for improved performance. But many of the high-end shotguns come with stock chokes just as good as aftermarket ones. 

People are obsessed with tighter and tighter patterns these days, and that sounds good, and it’s easy to get caught up in the hype. But we want to eat our ducks, and blasting them to shreds is not better. Ultimately you want a pattern that helps you consistently and reliably get clean kills so the birds do not suffer and are not lost, but not so tight that it destroys all edible portions of the bird. 

Listen to the podcast episode for all the details!

Duck hunting is a gear intensive sport and getting that gear to the field is a hurdle that every hunter needs to navigate. On this episode I talk about 5 different levels of gear and the main options for getting your equipment into the field for each. I also highlight different ways of hunting and moving gear which should help inform new and experienced hunters alike. 

  1. Extra Heavy Gear Hunting – Gear at this level either needs left in the field or brought in by vehicle, it is beyond what the hunters can bring into the woods under their own power. When you see hundreds of duck decoys, or large goose spreads, this is the only option.
  2. Heavy Gear Hunting – This is the upper range of what individuals can somehow lug to their hunting spot. Often they are using multiple jet sleds, farm carts, or boats to get it in.
  3. Medium Gear Hunting – What the average hunter is able to bring into the wood solo, or what a group can bring in without great effort. The is what most hunters are doing. This often involves what can practically be taken in on a single sled or cart. 
  4. Light Gear Hunting – What the average hunter can carry on their back without any mechanical aid. This usually consists 6-12 decoys and only the bare essentials. You would most often hunt this way if you have to cover a lot of ground, 
  5. Little to No Gear Hunting – This is for hunting on foot, moving throughout the day, usually with 0-2 decoys. This will enable you to go deep into the woods and access locations you could not get to laden down with gear. 

Most Common Tools Used

  • Jet Sled – These are heavy duty, super durable sleds designed for farm work and other rigorous activities. They can be used to drag or float hundreds of pounds of gear across just about anything at any time of year. 
  • Farm Cart – These wide wheelbase carts can make it possible to transport excessive weight with ease, as long as it is across relatively even surfaces. 
  • Open Top Kayak – Almost nothing is going to be easier than paddling into a location and floating your heavy gear in, provided of course you have the water, locations, vehicles, and equipment needed to make this option work. 

Listen to the episode to hear the options for bringing the gear for each level into the woods.

If ever there was a deep and confusing quagmire in the world of hunting, it is waterfowl hunting marketing. You have conflicting, inaccurate, deceptive, and at times even illogical claims all trying to get your attention or get you to pay more. On this episode I help you cut through the clutter of all the marketing hype so you can make informed decisions about what you really should by and what is worth paying for.

Links mentioned in the show:

In this podcast episode I cover several of the big areas of waterfowl hunting marketing such as:

Waterfowl hunting ammunition – This may be the most deceptive and confusing marketing in all of the hunting world. But with a few pointers you can learn to identify what elements of the ammo have value and what is hype.

Waterfowl hunting shotguns – It seems like duck hunting shotguns are very specialized and expensive. But what really makes a gun a waterfowl gun? Surprisingly little. Learn to discern what matters and what doesn’t.

Hunting waders – I think waders are the single most disappointing part of the waterfowl industry. They are almost all bad. And by bad I mean they fail, come apart, are easily shredded to pieces, the seams fail, the boots are terrible, the insulation is cheaply only placed around part of the foot and they never seem to last more than a season or two. What is worse, they come packed with bells and whistles that raise the price but amount to nothing once the waders leak. But you can find good waders out there if you know what to look for and what to ignore.

Hunting clothing – The cost of hunting clothing can be through the roof. And while at times there seems no way to justify the price, the marketing is relatively truthful. There are reasons garments cost what they do. Some education can help you identify what matters to you and what is worth paying for your hunting style.

Layout and A-Frame blinds – The marketers want you to think that dropping a few hundred dollars on a new blind setup will make all the difference in the world. The truth is, sometimes they can help in some situations. But rarely is this your weakest link. Most hunters would be further ahead by spending this money on practice by shooting sporting clays.

Duck and goose calls – The sky is the limit on the cost and complexity of waterfowl calls, and every call promises to make the difference and bring ducks right to your feet. You do need calls. More than one is helpful. But knowing when to part with your money is critical. Most of the time a new call is not going to change much of anything, unless you know exactly what it will add to you, and only experience can judge that effectively. As mentioned in the show, here is the link Ryloh Game Calls.

Listen to the episode to find out how to navigate the duck hunting marketing!

Learning is the most valuable thing we take away from each hunting season. And learning from someone else’s mistakes can be a great way to keep from making your own. On this episode I talk about the number 1 thing I learned during duck season last year.

Most people want to believe that every shot they take instantly kills the bird they are shooting at. Ammo companies make it their business to get people to believe that. But the truth is that this just does not always happen.

Never assume a bird is dead until you have it in hand and can confirm its condition. Always make it a point to immediately collect birds that you down. Do not wait, do not delay, do not take your eyes off of the bird. Get it and get it now. Make sure it’s dead and not suffering, and make sure the bird is not lost.

Listen to the episode for all the insights, stories, and more.

Is the good duck hunting over when winter arrives? Hardly! In fact some hunters have their best success in the late season. On this episode I share tips for successful duck hunting in the coldest late season conditions.

Take Aways

  • Frozen water pushes ducks south. This is good and bad for late season duck hunters.
  • It is bad when your best hunting water freezes but it is good because it focuses ducks on the little open water that remains.
  • Not all ducks fly south. If they can find open water and food, some ducks will stay year round.
  • To hunt late season ducks you need to find or create open water or open fields
  • Where you are in the country factors into duck habits and hunting strategy more than anything else. I cover several strategies for different climates in the episode.
  • Late season ducks and geese have their heaviest feathers and thickest fat which means it can take more to bring them down.
  • Consider stepping up your shot size or using something with more knock down power, like bismuth. 
  • Staying dry and warm are not just important for comfort but safety. Falling into the water when it’s 20 degrees is very dangerous. 
  • Never risk your safety to retrieve a bird, and always have a plan to retrieve birds in deep water.
  • Listen to the episode to hear the late season duck hunting tips.