The Key to a Successful Waterfowl Hunt

The Key to a Successful Waterfowl Hunt

Waterfowl Hunting Tips: Scouting In order to have a successful waterfowl hunt, you’ve got to find out exactly where the...

Waterfowl Hunting Tips: Scouting

In order to have a successful waterfowl hunt, you’ve got to find out exactly where the ducks and geese want to be. Showing up to a blind field or body of water (one that hasn’t been scouted) the morning of a hunt is simply a bet you’re going to lose nine times out of ten. Scouting is an essential part of waterfowl hunting. Scouting requires effort and initiative but can be fun and extremely rewarding. Here are two scouting tips which will hopefully lead to a more enjoyable and productive hunt. 


Put In The Time: Scouting takes time and costs money. Any legitimate guide is putting hours of time and adding hundreds if not thousands of miles to their trucks every season. Lots of hunters I know think that if they’re not seeing birds flying on their way home from work then there must be none in the area, and hunting therefore would be a waste of time. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The reality is that sometimes it takes miles and miles of driving before you find the ducks in any significant concentrations. In the weeks leading up to the opening day of Montana's waterfowl season, we put nearly a thousand miles on our trucks looking for a good feed that would provide a good combination of geese and ducks. We found a recently cut wheat field with tons of leftover grain that was feeding thousands of Mallards and Canada geese. It took us a while, but we were able to find what looked like an ideal feed by following the birds from their roost. More on that in the side note below...

SIDE NOTE: If you’re having a tough time finding a place to start your scouting venture, start with water. Go to a lake or any body of water that’s holding birds, and wait for them to leave for their afternoon/evening feed. Once you see large groups of birds leaving and heading towards a same general direction, do your best to follow them in your truck. Chances are if you can keep up with them, they’ll lead you right to a hot feed.

  • Identify the X: You’ve put in the time and miles and you’ve found a field holding lots of birds. You go back the next night and the birds are still there. Tomorrow is opening morning. It’s now time to identify the X. The “X” is a saying among waterfowlers, and it simply means the exact point in a field or on a body of water where the majority of the birds want to be and/or are landing. Any seasoned waterfowl hunter will tell you, it’s just about impossible to pull birds off the X, even if you’re set up just 100 yards away, so identifying the exact point of the X is crucial to being successful in the field. A good general rule of thumb is that waterfowl will start in the middle of an agricultural field and eat the food from the inside out. If the birds are feeding along the edge you can bet they’ve been in that field for quite a while. The night before your hunt, watch where the birds finish feeding. If it’s really cold, you’ll be amazed by how fast they can comb through a feed. Get there early as the birds arrive, have good optics, and enjoy the show. Once they leave, do your very best to mark that spot where the majority of the birds left. Ducks and geese are incredibly good at navigation. Not only do they follow the same general route year after year on their 1500+ mile migrations, but they also remember exactly where they left off feeding the night before. In the morning they will fly in to feed where they left off so as to not miss any food. This is your X, where your blinds, decoys, and hunters should be ready to go the next morning. 

  • We found our feed about 80 miles from the office and checked it at least once a week leading up to opening day on September 28th. The day before the opener, I checked it before work and I watched them in the evening and identified the X. On X Hunt Maps helped me identify the field as a public land under the Block Management Identification. I would recommend purchasing an elite or a premium membership to On X. It’s an amazing app that allows you to see public/private borders and identify land available to hunt. Using these tips, we were able to start our season off with a 10 man limit of mallards and pintails with 2 bonus limits of canada geese. We hunted the pacific flyway portion of Montana and managed to harvest 63 mallards and 7 pintails. It was an incredible day in the field with great friends, and the success was all thanks to good scouting.

    All that's left to do is grab a beer and gather around the barrel with hunting partners to recap the day.


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