BOWHUNTING DUCKS   2 comments

Hunting ducks with bow and arrow is not an easy task.  Perhaps the best advice is to find where the birds go to preen.  Those adventurous enough to try to take a duck with bow and arrow needs all the help he can get.  Although there are no figures available, an almost insignificant number of birds are taken each year by bowhunters.  Bowhunting ducks will never present a threat to the species. 

Preening is something some birds do.  It is not clear what the function of this process is for all birds.  It is apparently a process to improve the feathers.  Many birds rub their bill in oil from the preening gland and distribute this oil over the surface of the feathers.  This especially true of the flight feathers.  During this time, the birds are not as alert to danger and can be stalked.

 Sometimes the feathers are drawn swiftly through the beak and sometimes the bird runs the beak more slowly along the barb with a nibbling action.  This later action seems to repair small separations of the barbs.  The oil dries very rapidly.  It forms Vitamin D on exposure to ultra‑violet light.  This may be absorbed or ingested by the bird.

Ducks are one of the birds to use preening.  It was once thought that it helped “waterproof” them but, that is not believed to be the case.  Whatever the reason, observant hunters will find ducks standing on land or a tree limb that is close to water and preening their feathers. 

Most duck hunters find sitting in a warm blind, drinking hot coffee from a thermos to be a most welcome way to wait for ducks to come into the range.  Some of those veteran hunters even have charcoal grills to cook up a nice brunch.  They sit looking out over the decoys, watching the change of colors in the purple sky as the sun begins to rise above the horizon.  They wait for the whispering rush of wings to surprise them as ducks move into the decoys.

 Bowhunters usually are not part of that crowd, although they can join in if desired.  Bowhunters are jump shooters.  They need the quiet backwaters of a hidden cove or a small stream in order to avoid the sound of gun fire.  Bowhunters by nature are stealth and shoot hunters.  They do not use duck calls as a rule.  They try to locate the quarry before it locates them.  The exception to this rule is the pond sitter. 

Pond sitters are guys who find a blind on a small isolated pond and settle in with call and coffee.  As birds are sighted in the sky, they are called to in hopes they will join the decoys on the pond and provide shots as they approach.  This is very fast wing shooting and produces relatively slow success.  If someone is into a lot of shooting and not much eating of the game taken, this can be a fun way to spend the day. 

Jump shooting is a much more satisfying way to hunt ducks with bow and arrow.  Jump shooting involves moving along the shoreline.  A good area might be a wooded area near a grain field.  Puddle ducks such as mallards, wood duck and pintails congregate on large bodies of water for rest and security.  

Puddle ducks tend to strike out on their own when it comes time to feed.  They do not seem to like the competition at dinner time.  They find smaller bodies of water that offer choice feeding in the form of farm crops and shallow aquatic vegetation. 

Finding these areas is easy since these species tend to return to the same areas each year.  The observant squirrel or upland hunter need only remember where he has seen ducks in years past and return to those areas during the duck season.  

For the first time hunter in an area a map is helpful.  Look for the blue lines on the map as they mark bodies of water, whether they be creek, river or pond.  Then scout them out keeping in mind that ducks like the shallow water, that is out of the wind and which contains vegetation.  Ducks seek shelter in brush and cover that lines the edges of ponds and creek banks.  At this point preening points come into play. 

A preening point is any place that is sheltered from the wind and yet provides the duck with visibility on three sides.  In this way he is able to see the approach of danger from any predator.  Ducks seem to forget that danger approaches from the back also.  They will sit on these points preening their feathers but not looking behind them.  

A quiet hunter can approach quite closely to a preening duck before flushing him.  If the creek is a winding type of waterway, then a good pair of hip boots will come in handy to wade close to the birds without making a lot of noise.  The trick is to stalk with the flow of the water.  This allows one to lift his feet and let the water carry it ahead to where one wants to place it.

 Walking slowly, watching the banks and listening for any noise that will give away the duck’s position.  A pair of mini‑binoculars can come in handy in seeing ducks before they see you.  Late in the season, one is likely to find ducks just about anywhere there is open water.  Creeks with fast running water are handy.  The small eddies, with slow running water, become a safe harbor.

 Bowhunting of ducks can also be done from a blind.  Blinds should be as concealed as possible but must be open at the top to allow room for shooting.  The bowhunter needs more room to swing out his bow for the shot than does a gun hunter.  The actual construction of the blind can be quite simple.  There are some commercial blinds on the market that are made of camo cloth and fiberglass framing.  They are good and quite portable, allowing them to be moved from location to location. 

 A less expensive blind can be constructed by staking out some camo cloth in the shape of three sides of a rectangle.  The top and back are left open and the other three sides facing toward the waterway.  Twigs and brush can be added to the camo cloth to aid in concealment.  The open back allow the hunter access to the blind without scaring any birds that might be on the water.

 Camouflage clothing is a must in all bowhunting except for upland bird hunting.  It probably is a good idea there as well. 

As for other tackle, a bow must be of forty pounds pull or greater.  The ideal weight is about 50 pounds since it has the power to cast the arrow quickly and yet is not too heavy that it cannot be held if the proper shot is not presented right away.  Flu flu fetching is a good idea as it has the speed over short distances and yet will not go sailing off to be lost, it the shot is missed.  Blunts or Judo heads work well on the puddle ducks and are not as expensive as broadheads.  It is not a good idea to be shooting broadheads into the air.  Once launched, the archer does not have control of where it will land. 

Bowhunting ducks is challenging both in the planning and in the field.  Wise use of planning, practice and remembering the preening points can deliver a lot of satisfaction.

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Posted 11/02/2011 by Donald Gasaway in Waterfowl Hunting

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