Sports

Duck hunting action abounds now

As I hunkered down among the brush and reeds, I could actually hear ducks gabbling in a back eddy of the stream about 15 feet away. One of my hunting buddies was sneaking into place about 75 yards upstream and another the same distance downstream of my hiding place. We knew dozens of ducks had been resting and relaxing in the mid-morning sun along this stretch of water for several days. Checking my watch again, I prepared to stand and sneak into the open for a clear shot as our trio sprung our ambush.

I’d only crept forward about three steps when a volley of shots sounded upstream, so I leapt out of the reeds into the open shoreline. An explosion of water, feathers and raucous quacking welcomed my appearance so I shouldered my double barrel scattergun and picked a target. A fat greenhead mallard cartwheeled at my first shot and I tumbled a black duck with the second barrel. As I broke the gun open, the empty hulls sprung out and I dropped in two fresh loads.

Ducks are plentiful this season and jump shooting streams requires little time and equipment. It’s a great time to introduce a youngster to the sport. Brian Horr of Dedham really enjoyed a recent outing. (Contributed photo/Bill Graves)

Just as I closed the breech and prepared to wade out and pick up my birds, half a dozen teal came winging past. My buddy upstream had scared them in my direction and they flared right over my head, causing me to miss my first shot. As they buzzed away and around a bend in the stream, I managed to knock down the trailing blue wing teal. Shotgun blasts from downstream meant my other friend had also gotten a crack at the ducks. When our trio met back at the truck 10 minutes later, our assortment of waterfowl comprised seven ducks of four different  species. Not bad for our first jump shooting stop.

There are ducks everywhere you look this fall. Each lake, pond, swale, swamp, stream, river and puddle seems to attract a flock of birds. I’ve personally seen 10 different species so far this season and that makes for some exciting shooting opportunities. Duck season here in the Northern zone runs until the first of December and as long as some waterways remain unfrozen, there will be ducks to hunt. With opportunities so plentiful, the next few weeks offer a great opportunity to introduce a young sportsman or a rookie waterfowler to the challenge and adventure of wing shooting ducks.

There are several tactics used throughout Aroostook County to successfully put ducks in the game pouch, and while all are exciting, each presents hunters with varying methods and techniques. Perhaps the most common style of duck hunting is to set out decoys and use a call to attract passing birds within shotgun range. Shooting over decoys is most commonly done on water, but early and late in the day, gunning can be excellent as flock after flock bombard harvested grain and potato fields to feed.

Water hunters can construct makeshift blinds from natural cover on shorelines or use boat blinds for concealment. Field gunners need layout blinds for best camo in the flat, open areas. A minimum of a dozen decoys (full-body models with flocking are most realistic) will work, but two or three dozen is even better. A 3-inch, 12 gauge is the most popular shotgun for ducks, but a 20 gauge is fine for youngsters and small framed females. Don’t forget that federal law requires the use of steel shot or a non-toxic equivalent for all waterfowl shooting.

Another style of duck hunting, perhaps the most scenic, is floating down a local stream or river in a stable canoe or aluminum Jon boat. This sneak-and-peek method offers fast and steady action and covers a lot of water. The hunters actually go to the ducks rather than waiting long periods for them to come to you. Float hunting requires two partners for the best results. One man paddles and the other sits in front, gun ready for flushing ducks. After a bird is downed, the pair stop and change places, then continue downstream.

While I enjoy all these hunting options, my favorite is jump shooting, the tactic mentioned at the beginning of the article. It can be employed on lakes and ponds, but works better on flowing waterways, as the hunters can just drive further along the brook and repeat their sneak and surprise ambush. No decoys, boats or extra gear are required; just gun, shells, hip or chest waders, stealth and ambition. A four-legged companion is always welcome and saves hunters wading over slippery rocks to grab downed ducks.

I’ve used this jump shooting technique for decades on the Prestile Stream, but have enjoyed steady action on the Aroostook River and Meduxnekeag Stream as well. There are hundreds of bogans, backwaters, bogs, swales, beaver ponds, farm ponds and cedar swamps near every village and town, all offering a jump shooting opportunity as long as they are a legal distance from buildings and you have permission to hunt the land.

My two friends and I from the hunt I started the story with only had to do two other jumps along the stream to fill three limits of ducks that day. Another plus to jump shooting is it can work at any time of day and works for as few as two or up to five hunters. Give it a try this season. You won’t be disappointed.

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