When I first started chasing ducks I started looking for marshes and lakes that I felt could hold mallards. I never thought that mallards would go to fields, that’s where geese went. As you can tell I was quite naive and frankly inexperienced. However, I wasn’t far off the mark in assume mallards would be near water. I just never knew that mallards need to feed on fields as well. Therefore I never thought about field hunting mallards.
The deeper I got into waterfowl hunting and the more windshield time I spent scouting I soon figured out that mallards love fields. They may roost on the lakes and marshes, but they do go field in the fields to loaf and feed. If you’ve ever seen 500-1000 mallards try and set down in the middle of a cut corn field, you need to. It’s a sight to see and with that sight usually comes a fantastic hunt.
What’s different between Water and Field Mallards
When it comes to field hunting mallards, there can be a few differences. For one it’s an entirely different setup. If you’ve been duck hunting from a boat with floater decoys and don’t have much gear for field hunting. The jump from hunting over water to fields may become costly. However, if you field hunt geese and have some layout blinds or an A-Frame than you’re half way there to having the gear for field hunting mallards. When it comes to field hunting geese and ducks tend to work together. Therefore, a lot of the goose decoys and gear can be used while field hunting mallards. The only thing really needed are some field duck decoys.
Field Duck Decoys –
One of the most common questions is can I use my floating duck decoys for field hunting? I personally have never used my floaters in a field hunting situation. However, I have seen guys use them and have success. However, I’m someone that trusts decoy manufactures for making decoys to fit the job. Therefore, I use field duck decoys whenever I hunt mallards in fields. The decoys are usually oversized and stick off the ground giving off a more realistic presentation. Very rarely in my years of waterfowl hunting have I seen ducks sitting in fields. Usually, they are feeding and moving around while standing up. Therefore, the field duck decoys work the best giving off the best presentation.
When it comes to adding field duck decoys into your spread they can be a little expensive. However, there are a couple options; full bodies and silhouettes. Full body decoys tend to work much better, however, when you need to add numbers silhouettes are much less expensive. I usually stick to a 3:1 or 2:1 ratio for full body decoys to silhouettes. If ducks are more pressured using a 3:1 ratio will give the best results.
Top Related Article – Best Mallard Silohouettes.
Scouting For Mallards –
Scouting is crucial with waterfowl hunting, and with field hunting mallards it’s near impossible to hunt a field without knowing they are using the field. Early to mid-season, you can expect mallards to be feeding about twice a day morning and night. However, it doesn’t mean they are using the same field for both times of the day. This may force you to hunt an evening hunt, but it’s a positive. It gives you twice the chances of getting permission to hunt the fields. You may get the unfavorable no from one farmer, but the cornfield they are feeding in the evening you get permission. If this is the case ensure you give yourself a solid time frame of when the ducks start to use the field. This way you are all set with decoys and layout blinds.
Don’t forget to ensure you know exactly where the mallards are feeding as well. I’ve said it before that being on the “X” is important for geese. It is as crucial for ducks as well. Don’t give them a reason to hesitate setting down their feet.
Where To Start Looking –
I usually start my scouting trips the same each day. I look for a roost and begin to check numbers and see what direction the birds are flying off each morning and evening. Once you get a schedule in place it makes it much easier to pattern. Next, you take the direction the majority of a flock is going and the time and start to follow. Usually, ducks can go anywhere from a mile to 10 miles away from the roost to feed. It all depends on the food source and hunting pressure.
A general tip is to watch what geese are doing as well. A lot of times the ducks will follow the geese, kind of like a “monkey-see-monkey-do” scenario. This is why if you hunt geese often and have ducks in the area a goose spread will at times attract mallards. Once, you’ve been able to pinpoint a field ducks are using and feeding in. Get permission, find the “X” and get set up.
Set up for Field Hunting Mallards –
As we stated before the largest difference and cost to field hunting mallards is the full body decoys. However, if you hunt with a few other, sharing the cost and all buying a dozen or half dozen will allow you to increase the size of your spread. I’ve usually also thrown out goose decoys to help increase the numbers of the spread. I’ve even heard guys hunting with only goose decoys with success as well. Like all waterfowl hunting, it will take some time and learning to figure out what the exact set up is required for your area.
Nonetheless, I usually set up 2-3 dozen mallard full bodies when I’ve found anywhere from a flock of 30-100 mallards feeding on the field. If the numbers are above that I begin to add silhouettes and increase the number of decoys. I usually add full body geese as well maybe 2-4 dozen to give the Mallards a confidence booster that the field is active. Plus it gives you the opportunity to have a combo hunt. It happens more often than not where you have the opportunity to shot both geese and ducks when field hunting mallards.
Field Hunting Mallards Spread –
My most common spread is a pocket of full body Mallards close out in front of our layout blinds or A-frame. I then start with a motion duck decoy to give some realistic motion. One or two is usually more than enough, but be sure to turn it off if Geese start coming in. Geese tend to spook more from the motion decoys in my experience. Other than that the spread should be pretty simple and if the ducks seem to want to land on a side or not in the hole you intended. Be sure to move the decoys around so you can get a solid shot for the whole group.
Field Hunting Mallard Top Tips –
- Don’t make the mistake and call the shot too soon. When you are working large groups of field mallards they will tend to circle two, three sometimes even more than four times before they are close enough to make a solid shot.
- It’s quite hard to lose a field mallard down. I’ve lost birds to think marsh and honestly, it sucks. With large open fields, it’s great being able to retrieve your birds and even better if you have a dog that could use some marking work.
- Don’t forget to invite your buddies on these hunts when there are hundreds of mallards. It can be fast and furious and having the extra firepower is always nice to share in this tornado mallard shows.
Top Related Article – Field Hunting Geese
If you’re hunting late season weather, be sure to grab some shooting gloves to help keep you warm in the field. You can read about The Waterfowl Hunter’s favorite shooting gloves here.