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Locating Ducks and Geese
by T R Michels

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When you are hunting for ducks or geese, the first thing you need to so is find where the birds feedand roost. Locating ducks usually involves driving around to known sloughs, ponds, lakes, bays, streams and rivers to locate resident ducks early in the season, and checking this same areas later in the season to locate migrants. Locating geese is not much of a problem because they are easily seen as they fly to and from their roosting areas. Once you know where the birds are your next step is to locate the areas where they feed and rest. This involves continuous scouting. If you know the area and the general patterns the geese follow, then you know which way the geese fly out to feed.


When you are hunting ducks and geese you should scout to determine which areas the birds like to rest in, and which areas have the proper food sources in them before the season begins, especially if you are leasing land. If you are hunting on water check to see which of the nearby wet areas have water in them, and which wet areas the birds are using as resting areas. If you are hunting on land check nearby fields to determine what crops are growing in them. Farmers often rotate their crops; what may have been corn one year may be beans, wheat, rice, barley or alfalfa the next year. It pays to know well in advance which fields have the right crops in them.

One of the best duck hunting techniques my Dad taught me was to scout several areas before I hunted. He used to take me out the week before the opener to watch the big slough I mentioned at the beginning of this article. We would sit on a hill about a quarter mile from the slough, where we could watch the entire two miles of cattails with a pair of 7x35 binoculars. In the evening we could see the ducks moving from the lake to the small opening where we used the canoe, or to the larger opening where we sat on the 'rat hives. We'd sit there until dark, watching the ducks as they landed in small groups until there were several dozen ducks on the water. It usually got me so pumped up I couldn't wait until the opener.

Dad would also take the family on "Sunday Drives" after church on Sunday mornings. The drives were supposedly for quality family time, and we always had fun driving around the country, following any dirt road that we came across. But, I realize now that a lot of that driving was so that Dad could check out every pot hole, pond, slough and lake in the county. He wanted to know which areas had produced ducks that year, and which areas still had water in them, so he knew where to hunt when the duck season opened up.

We had done it so many times when I was young, and as I got older, that I didn't need to think about where I should hunt, I knew where the ducks were. That's how I choose the small hole in the cattail slough on opening morning. And that's how I knew what the ducks would do now, because I had seen them do it several times before the season opened.

Flight Patterns

Ducks often have preferred corridors they like to fly in as they move back and forth to feeding and resting areas. When you are scouting ducks you should try to locate these corridors, so you can set up in or near them during the hunting season.

Geese often fly out into the wind and keep going until they find a field to eat in. Local geese establish patterns and often fly out the same way each day and feed in the field until the food is gone. Then they find the nearest available field and feed in it. This pattern continues until the food sources are exhausted or until a major wind shift causes the birds to fly out in a different direction. Migrating geese that are new to the area often follow local flocks to feeding fields, but they may go off on their own. The best way to determine where ducks and geese are feeding is by scouting the night before you plan to hunt. Follow a flock as they leave the roost and note the field where they land. If they are not hunted that night, and if the food is not gone and there is no major weather change, the birds often return to the same field or near it the following day.

Hunting Sites

When you are hunting ducks you often want to hunt on water that the ducks use for resting/feeding areas. When you are hunting geese you often want to hunt in agricultural areas the geese are using as feeding areas. Once you locate the resting or feeding areas you need to ask permission to hunt from the landowner. If the feeding area is leased, someone else got there first, or the owner doesn't allow hunting try to get the nearest available field. When I hunt ducks and geese on land I try to get a field that is closer to the resting area, and shortstop the geese before they get to the area I can't hunt.

When you are choosing a feeding area take into account what I call the "angle of dispersal." Even though the ducks and geese all come from the same resting area they tend to fan out as they leave, spreading them selves out. The farther you get from the resting area or refuge, the greater the angle of dispersal, the fewer birds you see and the fewer birds you have a chance to decoy. Try to stay close to the resting area/refuge if the birds are willing to come in. In areas with a shooting line around a refuge the birds often fly high to avoid the hunters. In this case they may not want to come down until they are well away from the roost or refuge line. It may be better to get farther away, in an area where the birds are willing to come down.

Hunting Rights

With duck and goose hunting becoming more popular, it's getting harder to find places to hunt, especially for geese. If you know of a traditional goose feeding area, or a duck resting area, try to secure hunting rights to it well in advance of the season. By offering to help the farmer with his work he may give you exclusive rights or at least permission to hunt with him. Dropping off a few geese every time you leave is a nice gesture. Sometimes the only way to get access is to lease the land. If the price is high you may want to get a group of friends and secure a lease with an option for the following year. With more hunters every year a long-term lease may be the best option. If you don't secure hunting rights well in advance, someone may outbid you and you may lose the property. I've found that a combination of a written lease, the present of a few birds, or a gift certificate for dinner for the landowner and his wife, and the offer to help with the farm work goes a long way.

Be sure to find out if you can post "No Hunting" signs, dig pits if you agree to fill them in; which fields to stay out of; if you can drive on the fields; and where the buildings and livestock are. Be considerate. Driving on wet or muddy fields and crops can ruin them, and relations with the landowner. Be sure to close all gates, pick up all trash and shotgun shells, and don't leave decoys or blinds in the field where they may get wrecked by farm equipment, or wreck farm equipment, after the season.

This article is an excerpt from the Duck & Goose Addict's Manual ($19.95 + $5.00 S&H), by T.R. Michels.

T.R. Michels is a nationally recognized game researcher/wildlife behaviorist, outdoor writer and speaker. He is the author of the Whitetail, Elk, Duck & Goose, and Turkey Addict's Manuals. His latest products are the 2003 Revised Edition of the Whitetail Addict's Manual, the 2003 Revised Edition of the Elk Addict's Manual; and the 2003 Revised Edition of the Duck & Goose Addict's Manual. For a catalog of books and other hunting products contact: T.R. Michels, Trinity Mountain Outdoors, PO Box 284,Wanamingo, MN55983,USA. Phone: 507-824-3296, E-mail: TRMichels@yahoo.com , Internet Site: www.TRMichels.com

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