Men have been hunting waterfowl such as ducks, geese, and even swans since Prehistoric times. Anyone who has killed their own bird then had it for dinner can tell you they make really fine eating. But of course, like all hunting, most sportsmen and women are motivated primarily by the thrill of the chase, the camaraderie that comes from spending a few days on the water with fellow enthusiasts, and the lure of the beauty of the great outdoors. If you’ve been considering taking up waterfowl hunting, here’s a short primer on the subject.
Duck and goose hunting became all the rage in the United States during the 19th century, after the invention of the shot gun. Because the buckshot can spread out over a larger area, the likelihood of killing a bird was much greater than when using a gun that produces only a single projectile. The ready availability of great Flyways running north to south in several areas of the country led to extensive commercial hunting which eventually decimated flocks and drastically reduced their numbers.
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 went a long way toward regulating the amount of ducks and geese that were being killed each year, and it is still in effect today. Federal and state regulations provide for hunting opportunities for enthusiasts while striking a balance by protecting bird populations.
Waterfowl hunting seasons are usually in the fall and winter, when birds have finished raising their young and have taken wing for warmer climes. Basic equipment for hunters includes a shotgun, a blind to conceal the hunter, and calls and decoys to attract birds.
Blinds are essential to duck and goose hunting since the birds are easily spooked and must be lured within firing range. A blind often looks like a plywood outhouse with openings facing the body of water as well as the sky and it may or may not be camouflaged. In popular hunting areas, these structures may be permanent. However, many natural materials can serve as blinds too: trees, tall grasses, or structures artificially constructed from branches or logs work great.
Duck calls and decoys help to lure the birds to within striking distance. They come in a wide range of styles and many hunters will swear that his work the best! In truth, it is a game between the hunted and the hunter: a game of strategy as well as patience. If you have never participated in a waterfowl hunt or are experienced but want to try new places, it is probably wise to hire an outfitter who is a seasoned professional. He will know where to go, what to bring, and what the local rules and regulations are.
Bay Prairie Outfitters & Lodge (http://www.bayprairie.com/) is owned and operated by Mike Ladnier, who won the titles from both the 1988 & 1991 Texas State duck calling championship, as well as the 1989 Ark/La/Tex Regional Duck Calling Championship. Mike has been a professional waterfowl guide since 1979. Billings Farnsworth is a freelance writer.