Lake Texoma

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A Beginner Waterfowler's Guide to Duck Hunting

Admittedly, my education in waterfowl hunting is just two seasons long. I’m definitely not ready to mentor someone in the field. That being said, I’ve been lucky to spend those two seasons with exceptional and very serious waterfowl hunters. Spending time with experience hunters taught me more in two seasons than I could’ve learned in ten trying to learn everything myself. Therefore, I am inclined to share a little bit of what I’ve learned thus far.


All hunters benefit from scouting. The term can bring up mental images of big game hunting. For me, I will always associate the term with waterfowl. For serious hunters, scouting lasts all year. There are migration routes, food sources, roosts and loafing areas to examine. There are storms and other weather events that dictate when and where birds move. Wind direction and cover will dictate the best place you should hide. The depth of knowledge someone needs to be an effective waterfowler is intimidating at best. Fortunately, the real fun is in the process.


Being an ethical hunter means abiding by wildlife laws. When it comes to duck hunting, you don’t just encounter one species; there are multiple species of ducks that are available to hunt each time you go out. Wildlife laws are constructed for the best management practices for each species. This can make things difficult if you struggle with identifying birds. For example, in Arizona, we are allowed a limit of seven ducks. Only one can be a pintail, only two can be female mallards, and the list of rules and regulations goes on. Combine this with juvenile, adult, seasonal, and sexually dimorphic plumages and things can get very tricky. It is your responsibility as an ethical hunter to do your homework and learn to properly identify your birds.

Birds are Tough

Not every kill will be clean. Fortunately, several things to help alleviate this. First, let the birds work. Don’t shoot at them when they are flying fast and high; allow them to circle back around and commit to the decoys. While taking long shots at birds can be tempting, it rarely results in a clean kill and has high potential for injury and loss.

High-quality and heavy hitting loads help here, too. Ducks and geese need something that packs a bigger punch. A little extra money spent on high brass bismuth or tungsten loads is money well spent and will result in less crippled and lost birds. Plus, those dollars go back to fund conservation thanks to the Pittman-Robertson Act.

Finally, mark your birds. When a shot bird falls, mark the location in your mind. Be ready to take a follow-up shot. A hit bird can seemingly drop from the sky completely lifeless, only to get up and fly, swim, or dive to make an escape, resulting in a lost bird that will perish later on.

It's a Team Effort

Solitude is one of the things I love about hunting, so I tend to go out by myself. However, waterfowl hunting is often an experience shared with others. Hunting with a group, while different than what I usually do, is something I’ve grown to love. Sharing a thermos of hot coffee in a cold blind at the break of day is the stuff that makes memories. 

Safety should always be at the forefront of everyone’s mind when hunting with a group. Practicing good muzzle control, staying within your shooting lane, and never releasing your firearm’s safety until you’re ready to pull the trigger are disciplines that must be followed at all times. Common courtesy is a must as well. This list is long, but it can be summed up by simply being respectful to those you’re sharing the blind with. Keeping your dog under control and not shooting birds that are in someone else’s lane are easy ways to practice courtesy to others. Swapping stories between the bouts of excitement that come with flocks of incoming ducks is not only the best time ever, it can form lifelong friendships. 

While serious waterfowl hunting can be an intense endeavor, this should not dissuade the prospective duck hunter. In its simplest form, all you need to hunt ducks is a shotgun, a call, a handful of decoys, and a ducky-looking area to hunt. Waterfowl hunting, like many things in life, gets increasingly rewarding with additional effort.

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Fishing Report from TPWD (Apr. 7)

GOOD. Water lightly stained; 56 degrees; 1.93 low. Striped bass are good on large white swimbaits and live shad. White bass are good on swimbaits, rooster tails, small crankbaits, and spoons in creeks and tributaries. Largemouth bass are fair fishing swim jigs, lipless crankbaits, suspended jerk baits, and chatter baits in 3-10’. Crappie are good on minnows and jigs near boathouses, timber, and brush piles. Catfish are good on punch bait and cut bait.

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