Interested in Public Land Duck Hunting?
Duck hunting on public land isn’t without its challenges. Luckily, there’s someone who really cares about this subject and wants to teach you. On an episode of the A Bone to Pick podcast, Michael sat down with Dr. Duck (aka, Dennis Loosier), who is considered an expert on public land duck hunting and all things waterfowl hunting – maybe not surprising, given his title. He has a long history of success and a great passion for teaching others about public land duck hunting tactics. So whether you’re a brand new hunter interested in getting involved or a seasoned waterfowl hunter looking to learn a few new tricks, check out the points below and listen to Dr. Duck and Michael chat on the podcast episode.
Differences of Private and Public Land Duck Hunting
First, there are a few important differences between duck hunting on private properties versus public lands. The biggest advantage for private landowners is that they are able to manipulate and manage habitat for waterfowl, which public land hunters obviously can’t do. For example, they can plant waterfowl food plots (such as millet, wheat, chufa, corn, etc.) in the right areas, and then strategically flood the fields to attract ducks like crazy. They can also set up permanent blinds that are much more comfortable and save a lot of time on opening morning. Another huge perk for private landowners is that they can manage the hunting pressure. After a day of intense hunting, they can walk away and leave the property alone for several days for ducks to feel safe enough to return. Inevitably, even seasoned ducks should bring some others with them that haven’t been hunted as much and will be easier to shoot. That all being said, the vast majority of duck hunters who are fortunate enough to own their own land can’t afford thousands of acres either. In that case, you can expand your list a bit by gaining hunting access to other private lands or shifting to public lands.
Public land duck hunting is a totally different story from private land. First, you have access to hundreds of thousands of acres (from wildlife management areas to waterfowl production areas and more), which means lots of hunting opportunities. You can travel across the country targeting different species of ducks and find public land that will support them. But public land ducks are continuously hunted right from opening morning til the end of the season, and you can’t change when other hunters are out there. As a result, they learn to avoid common decoy or blind setups and hunting areas pretty quickly. And they only get smarter as they migrate south, experiencing hunters from Canada all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. Dr. Duck calls these birds “Ivy League ducks” because they have seen it all and you need to be diligent to hunt them successfully. For most public land hunters, you can scout a few areas ahead of the season, but you can’t really get fully in the game until opening morning. For public land, you need to find the best locations for the weather conditions. Sometimes those hot spots are already occupied by other hunters or people will come set up too close to you. It’s public land – there’s not much you can do about that, except for to be patient.
Getting Others Involved
One of the biggest goals for Dr. Duck and many others in this industry is to get more people involved in duck hunting. From other adult hunters to kids, it’s crucial to show them what to do, teach them the waterfowl “rules” or etiquette, and recruit more duck hunters. Being a mentor to new hunters can seem like a big hurdle for existing hunters. There might be some reluctance to take time off from your own hunting pursuits because we each have a limited time we can spend on hunting each season. Or maybe you’re hesitant to show someone else some of your favorite places to hunt – we’re all a little greedy in that way. But if hunters don’t introduce someone new, our favorite places and the ducks we all love to chase will eventually be put at risk. Why? Hunting revenue supports wildlife and habitat across the country. And many non-profit conservation groups (such as Ducks Unlimited, Delta Waterfowl, etc.) use the funds they raise to support those causes as well. That’s why it’s so critical we all step up like Dr. Duck.
Public Land Duck Hunting Tips
There are a few things that public land waterfowl hunters should keep in mind. Here are just a few that came up in the discussion between Michael and Dr. Duck.
One of the most important things you need to do for successful public land duck hunting is to scout in the season. You need to put in enough time to check out different areas and know where the ducks are spending their time and when they’re around. Where are the primary feeding areas? On larger reservoirs, which bays are attracting the ducks? Are there small honey hole ponds tucked away somewhere that could be dynamite? Without that real-time intel, you can still be successful, but you leave everything up to chance. Why not put in more effort ahead of time to swing the outcome your way more often? Take time to drive around a few spots, get out of the truck, and take some notes so you know where to set up the following morning.
Public land duck hunting introduces a lot of elements of competition. Because anyone can access these areas, you can be hunting alongside waterfowl veterans and some completely green newbies alike. As a result, you get people doing things they probably shouldn’t sometimes. For example, new hunters may not always follow the waterfowl code of ethics (they might be sky busting, shooting at each other’s ducks, setting up too close to your blind, etc.). But there’s a very good chance they don’t even know that what they’re doing is disrespectful! That’s why Dr. Duck thinks it’s so important to get more hunters involved and teach them about those ethics. When you’re in the field, take time to chat with other hunters about those things in a respectful way. Take some new hunters with you to teach them the duck hunting strategies and code of ethics as well. If everyone pitches in, public land duck hunting can be a great opportunity for everyone.