I have always enjoyed duck hunting, but every year I convince myself that it takes too much time to set up and requires way too much equipment. Between the decoys, blinds, boats or ATV’s, it can become quite an expensive hobby. Not to mention, when I moved out west, I was much more interested in chasing things with antlers and horns then I was shooting greenheads.
I have, however, recently had the opportunity to go on a couple of waterfowl hunts and I have to say, there were several occasions my hands were trembling with excitement while I was blowing the call and the ducks were lighting in the decoys. The terrible memories of waking up and rushing to 2:30 AM poor lines and trudging through public land mudholes were a thing of the past. I will say that I am a huge fan of all public land and public land hunting opportunities, but in the case of waterfowl hunting, they can be quite exhausting to navigate.
I am simply saying that when it comes to waterfowl, it always helps to have a buddy with an “in”. On a recent trip to Nebraska, I had the fortunate opportunity to have a friend that had one of those opportunities. I drove out to Nebraska for an impromptu deer hunt, which didn’t pan out how I had planned. But while I was busy commiserating about the big giant buck I wouldn’t get to shoot, my buddy got a call from his friend and asked if we wanted to hunt a pit he had on the Platte River.
I really didn’t want to abandon the deer hunting opportunity, but I also didn’t want to be the guy to go against the flow of the group. So, we piled in the truck and headed to the river. The same issue that we were running into deer hunting seemed to be hindering the duck hunting. It was bitterly cold overnight, but the daytime temperatures were hitting the mid 40’s. This kind of weather is great for being in the fields, but it allows the animals to sit all day.
The action was slow in the morning, not to mention that we managed to get lost on the way to the pit and didn’t arrive until 20 minutes after shooting light. I felt like we had missed the prime shooting opportunities.
We piled in the pit hastily, getting our calls and ammunition ready. No sooner did we get the calls to our lips, we had mallards circling looking to land in our decoys. We managed to knock a few out of the flock. I figured that was going to be the extent of the excitement since the temperature was now hovering around 45 degrees and it was a bluebird day. The sun was shining, and it was beautiful which doesn’t usually lead to successful waterfowl hunts, but today was different.
The action was not hot and heavy with hundreds of birds working the decoys, but all day we had a steady stream of ducks flying up and down the river. We managed to consistently work groups of 2-20. I was surprised by the willingness of the ducks to work the decoys on such a warm day. On several occasions, the guys in the pit called at birds that I didn’t even consider workable because they were too high. But they gave them a high ball and a few minutes later they had dropped down from the stratosphere and were in the decoys. We even managed to trick a few geese that were flying the river. I don’t think anyone would pass up a bonus honker, especially when they are cupped up and coming in. The amount of bird activity was impressive, especially on a day when it was not expected. The river corridor was alive with action and we were taking full advantage.
The take away from this hunt was to always be flexible. I had my mind set on taking a nice deer with my muzzleloader, but because we took advantage of an opportunity that does not always get offered, I was able to have a new and unique experience that still put a lot of meat in the freezer and made for some awesome wing shooting. Just remember to always keep an open mind and go with the flow when special opportunities cross your path, it can make for a great time.