The elk are calming down from a month of bugling, white tailed deer are in their annual lull and it’s a little too early to trap. October is for the birds! Waterfowl season will begin October 3rd this year and this is the best time to hunt resident birds. Small creeks and ponds make for great jump shooting opportunities and setting up along rivers can offer excellent pass shooting opportunities.
It’s also a great time to find flocks of unpressured geese feeding on open fields or the edges of grassy rivers. You don’t need hundreds of decoys or $200 calls to successfully hunt waterfowl contrary to the information force fed to us through television shows and catalogs. A good bird dog helps but a pair of waders and a little motivation can be a reasonable compromise. The best option might be to bring a young teenager along, they seem to be adept at retrieving birds enthusiastically and it is always a good idea to introduce a young person to hunting.
A few tips on early season waterfowl hunting:
- Do what the ducks do: If the birds are flocking up in big groups, use bigger decoy spreads. If you don’t have a lot of decoys, scout the areas where the ducks are going to and coming from. Set up in between the feeding and bedding sites or wait to intercept them.
- Hunt fowl in foul weather: When the skies are clear and bright there will be little flight. Rain and wind get birds moving. A little cold weather helps too. When you see the weather changing its time to go hunting.
- Walk: Small ponds and streams hold ducks and geese. It may only take a half hour to get to the best hiding places on foot. Jump shooting is a great way to get birds and challenges your reflexes.
Another great attribute about waterfowl hunting is that it is an activity well suited to conversation and camaraderie. It’s only when putting a sneak on birds or when birds are coming in to your spread that everyone in your hunting party needs to be quiet and still. Some of the best story telling I’ve heard has been while sitting in a duck blind in October.
The sharing of past experiences carries on with laughter and regret of the big one that got away. Then suddenly someone breaks the commotion with “bird left, bird left!” And everyone crouches in silence looking toward the sky. A quick “quack, quack” from a duck call will often be followed by a circling group of ducks. When the hunters can clearly see the feet of the birds someone makes the call; “Take ‘Em!”.
Hopefully ducks are raining down on the water as gunshots echo across the river bottom. Then the air is filled once again with words of excitement, the conversation changed from that of days gone by to the immediate present. Encouraging words are said like; “good shot” and “man did you see that bird lock up his wings?”
If the air is filled with silence following a round of gunshots and the hunters notice but a few feathers falling to the ground there’s still a change in conversation that lends itself well to excuses about the lifting of heads and not following through with the shot. The good thing is that it often leads to an invite to the range later to “knock the rust off”. Remembering to lead a close bird by ten feet becomes routine with practice.
Either way waterfowl hunting takes on a cadence of conversation, silence, eruption, and conversation in varying tempos throughout the morning until all are satisfied with the experience. The plucking of birds and fine table fare round out the occasion as plans are made for another day.
October is a good month to be in the woods and on the water. With fowl held in hands and warm memories embraced in hearts the fabric of friendships is woven as hunters old and new relive the events of the day, for years to come. Make October a month to remember.