How To Find A Hidden Away Duck Hole
A secluded water duck hole such as small out-of-the-way ponds are among the places where ducks can be found.
Most ducks hunters around the state focus on large open water areas or massive fields to hunt waterfowl. These areas are sometimes more crowded with hunters than with ducks. Ducks and geese coming into these types of areas have heard every call and seen every decoy on their trip southward.
Duck hunters may prefer the big water or big fields to set their decoys and blinds. However, small out-of-the-way places can offer plenty of waterfowl action. Many of these “pothole” locations around the state have good waterfowl numbers and receive no hunting pressure. The hidey-hole spots are closer by than you may realize.
Waterfowl shooters should not dismiss a smaller water duck hole. We sometimes get caught up in the assumption that bigger water means more birds. While there may not be as many ducks on a small pond, the shooting action can be fast and furious. A hunter on the right duck hole can quickly bag a limit.
Locating Your Hidden Duck Hole
Ducks feed in and around water. Hunters should seek out small farm ponds or areas of flooded timber. Heavy rains in December can create a hidden away duck hole just about anywhere. The trick is to sort out the locations that have ducks coming in. Keep in mind that ducks migrate throughout the winter; one day here and the next gone. The only exception is the wood duck, which generally hang out in the same areas.
“It doesn’t take a lot of water to hold some ducks,” explains Hunter Johnson of Eastaboga, Ala. “I found a small pond just off a creek and the water was only about a foot to two-feet deep.”
Johnson said the area was perfect for wood ducks since they could fly up and down the creek and drop by the small water hole. Oaks and other trees provided food and cover. The area was secluded enough that the ducks felt safe there.
One of the best ways to locate some small ponds or water holes is by looking at satellite photos of your planned hunting area. Creeks or sloughs off a river channel can be seen easily on a map. Look for wide spots or turns that can break the current flow. Ducks don’t like to feed in strong current.
Scouting for ducks is not something most waterfowlers would think of, but it can make the difference in a good hunt or just wading around in the water. When scouting a potential area, duck hunters should arrive early in the morning or late afternoon. Look and watch where the ducks are going to and coming from. Try to locate the wood ducks’ roosting sites and position yourself along the flight path. There may not be as many ducks, but waterfowl hunters can get closer for more shooting action.
Hunters may want to try a local farm pond if the ducks are present. Most farmers are willing to allow a few duck hunters on their pond. Waterfowlers should be polite when asking the landowner about hunting. Once you get permission, let the landowner know when you will be hunting.
Duck Hole Setup
Choosing the proper location is critical on small waters. Know which direction the ducks will approach from and the position of the rising sun. If conditions warrant, a blind can be set up or maybe a shooting spot can be brushed in to help hide the hunters.
“On small water areas a blind is a good idea,” Johnson comments. “The ducks can come in pretty close, so wearing full camo will keep from spooking them too soon.”
Erect the blind at least a few days before hunting the area to allow the ducks to become accustomed to the change. Johnson recommends the blind on a hidey-hole be low profile where the hunters shoot while sitting on a stool or bucket. The less movement when the ducks are close in, the better.
Ducks have very good eyesight and complete camouflage is a must when hunting waterfowl. There are special camouflage patterns for duck hunters, but anything to break up your silhouette and help you blend into the surroundings will work. Do not wear anything that is reflective or bright in color. Dull browns or greens will work if you don’t have any camo.
“Don’t look directly at the birds coming in,” Johnson explains. “They can easily spot movement and will veer off before coming into range.”
Small Water Duck Decoy Placement
On small water duck holes, decoys can be beneficial in attracting ducks just like in wide open lake areas. Only a few decoys are needed to get the ducks attention on mudhole-size ponds. Around a dozen or so decoys in a wood duck or mallard pattern should suffice. Also, a few feeder decoys are a good addition.
“Too many decoys in a small area don’t always work out,” comments Johnson. “With a lot of decoys on the water, the ducks coming in may see the area is too crowded and there is no room to land.”
Depending on the overall size and shape of the hidey-hole pond, usually a few decoys grouped together will suffice. Be sure to place the decoys where they are visible to approaching ducks from a couple of different directions. Another decoy spread is to set the decoys in a horseshoe shape or leave a large opening between pairs.
As the ducks approach, wait until they are in shotgun range. In most instances the shooting will be rapid. Discuss ahead of time with your hunting buddies which section of the pond each will cover. In the early morning light, ducks will be coming in with afterburners on and they will hit the brakes to land on the water at the last second.
Shooting Tips For Ducks
Shotguns in 12 gauge with magnum shells are still in order for out-of-the-way duck holes. Guns capable of shooting 3-inch to 3 1/2-inch length steel shotshells will put down more ducks than lighter versions. Steel pellets, heavy shot or other loads approved for waterfowl need to be in the magnum category.
“The ducks will be moving in fast,” Johnson advises. “Steel shot in the number 4 size will give a good pattern for the close-in birds.”
Also, Johnson advises to change out those long-range, extra-full choke tubes. He says a modified or even an improved cylinder will work best on the birds coming in at close ranges. The blind set-up shooting position should present a typical shot range of less than 30 yards.
Hidden away duck holes won’t produce for an all-day shootout. However, these small out-of-the-way areas are a great place to bag some ducks early before work or when time is limited.
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