Duck Hunting Public Land: Part 1

Posted by on Jan 1, 2013 in Hunting | 0 comments

The air that crept through the small opening of my mummy bag was icy enough to wake me. It was 3:30 in the morning; a good 2 and a half hours before shooting time. The ducks weren’t even awake yet, but I crawled from the back of my pickup and fired up the Coleman. It was 26 degrees, and hot coffee was on the menu. Ah, the joys of duck hunting!

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I arrived at the string of pothole lakes in Central Washington the night before, after stopping for a quick pheasant hunt on the way, before darkness settled in. A single quail was now nestled in my orange game bag as a result. I had to be back home that night, so this particular morning would define my entire hunting “weekend.” Home was a 4-hour drive away. Here are just a few pointers that helped me get the job done.

Get there early. I don’t have the opportunity of hunting on private or leased ground, nor do I pay for a guide, which is one reason I drive the lengths I do for even a chance of a quality DIY hunt. Needless to say, when left to hunting public areas, no matter how remote they may look on a map, getting there early is always a must.

Use the right tools. I finished my coffee and started the near-mile hike with 12 decoys—two geese and ten old, scuffed-up ducks—strapped to my back. I carried my old Mossberg in one hand, and a telescoping pole in the other. My black lab, Mollie, passed away unexpectedly earlier in the summer, so I was left with waders and a long hooky gizmo to retrieve my quarry. She was a great dog, and as so many duck hunters would suspect, she was unequivocally the happiest when she was swimming after a downed quacker. This was my first duck hunt without Mollie, so to say it wasn’t easy is an understatement. But as I left the parking area, I noticed I was still the only hunter there, and that made my spirits rise. A bit.

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