More Places to Hunt Waterfowl

When you see places like this you know they have potential and gaining access becomes a priority.

I love to gain opportunities to duck hunt. Accessing public lands is where it starts, but like most, more places to hunt are better. Many years ago my friends and I engaged in a lease. It was good, but eventually was sold and we moved on. Money for most of us is the critical factor. Some can afford to own or partner in clubs, pay for private hunts or lease property each year. Yet others still love to hunt and are willing to reach out and find new places to access in exchange for working on the property.

I start by saying get the OnX app and use this to get to know who owns lands you are interested in accessing. The app will provide the names and addresses of owners. It is invaluable when you are driving around and trying to find birds. Keep in mind that some counties, parishes or districts do not provide names or ownership, but as more employ technology, more public information will become available. Use the app to identify owners and simply send them a letter. I do this every fall and set a goal of ten to twenty letters. In those letters, I introduce myself, my interests, and ask if they have any possible opportunities for waterfowl hunting. Also to make sure both are on the same page, I cut and paste a map of the property I am asking about. Most will respond and while many may not provide you an answer you like, over time I have indeed made connections that worked out. 

OnX is an application that provides so much information about landowners. You can also measure boundaries and distances.

Follow up with a meeting. Show your maps and develop a plan that benefits both. Since you do not know them yet, offer to do something to help. Farmers love people willing to give back. I have driven grain wagons, helped with mowing and many times just hung out and made conversation. 

Show your ideas and provide this as you meet to make sure your ideas align with the landowner. Many times you can bring fresh concepts and innovation where none existed before.
Labor as needed so if you can mow – this is always needed.

One other avenue is flat out working for private organizations that cater to paying customers. Most often this occurs all spring and summer in preparation for fall and could include clearing brush, building blinds, or general farm labor. Come fall this might roll into a guide job or worker to take care of customers. In return, you may get paid, but might also have some hunting rights. 

On this property, several of us work to help the owners. We are always making changes to improve the hunting for everyone.
Brushing blinds each fall is a full weekend of work. Willows cut before the first frost keeps leaves all winter and so do Oaks.

Next, ask around to see who are hunters you know that own property and hunt. I recently ran across an old college friend and after some catching up he called me and ask me to go hunting on his lease. In fact, I got to hunt an area I had known about for years but never hunted. Meet up with friends at banquets, social events, and even in the draw room before each day. 

Meeting old friends can always lead to opportunities. It was a great experience in this old blind.
A room full of people always leads to conversations. Take the time to meet people and share stories.

Next up is asking a person to go hunting with you. Even though you might tend to hunt with the same folks if you want to expand your opportunities take someone else hunting. This often closes those degrees of separation. If there is anything I have learned duck hunters know each other and the network is expansive. Those degrees of separation are smaller than you think.

I hunt with young people as often as possible, but I also find new people to share resources and opportunities.

Always talk duck hunting. You never know who you might meet that hunts and is willing to take you. The quid pro quo is always going to expand. Share your experiences and see what common ground exists.

As I have also learned over the years offering to work goes a long way. My best friends that hunt are property owners and have been for many years. In exchange for opportunities to hunt, I work. This includes multiple days of fixing well pipes, moving blinds, building blinds, planting, mowing, dirt work, and whatever is needed. In exchange for hunting, I put in the work. While it might seem you have nothing to offer, I found my drone to be something they liked so I have done hundreds of aerial photos of their property that they never had before.

After flooding and a long summer, fixing broken well pipes is always a challenge. After a while, you become an expert and gain value with the owners.
One of my favorite offerings with landowners is drone photography. I give then a perspective they have never seen before.

One more idea I would add is to consider what you have in regard to equipment you can use on someone else’s property. Skid steer loaders, tractors, trailers, and backhoes are among the most popular, but even if you don’t own equipment you might have a friend that does so this can start a parlay to get everyone what they want. I have a nice trailer that I can haul a tractor on. This saves the landowner the expense of renting one so my participation at really no cost to me gains me some hunting time. 

Whatever you have to offer will be appreciated.

You should always thank those that do take you hunting. This typically will lead to more opportunities and make sure you offer to work. Take a weekend, or anytime you have to repay those that have taken you hunting. Thank them with a letter, or perhaps a gift. They appreciate your attention. I have even subscribed them to magazines to keep them thinking about me all year. Do something to make sure they know you appreciate the opportunity to access their property or lease. 

Now is the time to start thinking about fall – get those letters out, stop by and visit and be active in your efforts to find a great place to hunt this fall. 

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About the author: David R. Vaught, Ph.D. began hunting waterfowl at a young age due to his father being a waterfowl biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation. Today he hunts both public and private waterfowl grounds and is always working on something related to waterfowl throughout the year. He loves to turkey hunt and fish for walleye and crappie in the spring. David is a university professor, holds an NRA Level II coaching certification and works with youth in trap and skeet shooting in the summer with his annual trap-shooting academy.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Mike K. April 2, 2021, 9:27 am

    A good article and we all know “its not what you know, but who you know” however… Hunting in so many places has become “pay-to-play” and it generates huge amounts of money and as long as their is money to be made it will stay that way. In Idaho in the Treasure Valley area it costs about 15 – 20 thousand dollars a year to get a waterfowl hunting lease – if you can even get one! That’s ridiculous and outrageous. I hate to be the guy who says well back in my day but, back in my day in the 80’s and very early 90’s I could pretty much go up to any farm owner and ask to hunt and would receive permission with a hand shake and promise to lock gates, not shoot his house or cows and not to date his daughter. I know that many states are trying to give land owners tax breaks and other financial incentives to allow people to hunt for free and access more land, but how can a State compete with private parties willing to pay $20,000 or more? (In California a lot more!) The other thing that I see is “habitat improvement”. Since when is flooding corn or bean fields been a “normal” agricultural practice? These areas give waterfowl a nice place to eat and hang out and no real reason to move – that reduces people on the public lands chances of even seeing a bird and to me is unfair. And I haven’t even talked about hunting on the public. it is like combat, seriously. People piled on top of another, inconsiderate hunters, poorly behaved dogs etc. I mean last year a guy killed a couple of other duck hunters over a hunting spot, that’s how bad it is getting. This is all caused by lack of access – duh! The main reason that people give for why they quit waterfowl hunting is lack of access. This article highlights that lack of access and I get pretty pissed every time I read about a hunting leases for waterfowl and I know a lot of other guys get pretty heated too. So my main point is just like in Jolly olde Englund – NO HUNTING ON THE KINGS LAND.

  • sportsman101 April 2, 2021, 8:40 am

    Take the doctor’s advice, take a friend hunting!

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