As September seizes and October approaches with it’s cooler temperatures and falling leaves. The site of sloughs, ponds, and backwaters become visible through the thinning trees. Perched up on the wood stumps and creek turns you begin to see wood ducks. If you are looking for a variation to your standard duck hunting you need to experience wood duck hunting.
You may need to start your scouting before the season. Looking for creeks with fallen timber or ponds with overhanging wooded cover. You probably won’t see too many large groups of Wood Ducks but rather small 6-12 ducks in a group. However, that isn’t a gold standard. I’ve spotted early wood duck migration where they have been stacked up in thick marshes by the hundreds. So don’t be afraid to scout around a little. The general rule is that wood ducks will consistently seek thicker cover in creek channels, winding rivers, and thickly wooded ponds. So sticking to the general rule and assuming you find birds. Wood Duck hunting still has it’s challenges and differences to hunting mallards.
Finding the “X” for Wood Duck Hunting
As you begin to find multiple locations that look like they will attract wood ducks be sure to mark those locations. For instance, any swampy streams, or brushy backwaters are a great wood duck habitat. The spots may not be holding birds now but as birds move around throughout the day you may just happen to find the spot or “X” of where the wood ducks tend to sit during the day. As essential as it is to hunt geese on the “X” so is it with wood duck hunting. If you can establish a spot on a pond or river that wood ducks congregate. You easily will have the success of a great hunt. Therefore marking that spot down to come back and set your decoys down will give you the confidence of a solid hunt.
Setting your Wood Duck Decoys
Wood ducks tend to travel and move around in small groups. Anywhere from 2-12 at a time. Therefore you don’t need to pretend like it’s late season goose hunting and throw out all the decoys you can find. Rather setting out 6-8 decoys will give your spread a realistic offering. To help in selecting a set of decoys that will last we tested out a few different brands. As most of our wood duck hunting was done on brushy backwaters. These decoys tend to take a little more abuse than our traditional mallard decoys. So finding a few good decoys that can withstand the conditions was important to us.
- Having used the Avian X mallard decoys before I knew if they had the same construction they would withstand some abuse. I wasn’t wrong. The Avian X Wood Ducks are made of a non-chip paint that gives it a very durable almost soft plastic feel. The packs are sold in 6 packs. Which honestly if this is your first season wood duck hunting this can easily be enough to start with. The drawback here is that they do cost more than other wood duck decoys. However, they do offer a durable paint scheme that should provide you with years of hunting.
- The box offers 2 low head drakes, 2 high head drakes and 2 low head hens.
- Higdon brand was the second set we gave a turn with on a hunt as well. They easily are the cheapest price, with a price of less than $40 for a set of 6. Can’t beat that. They have a foam filled design that offers great buoyancy. The material is a little harder and my concern would be the paint maybe rubbing off over time. However, for the price, you really can’t go wrong. The main thing you need to do with these decoys is give passing birds a visible decoy.
- The box offers 4 drakes and 2 hens.
- Avery was the last set we tried out this season and to our surprise, they held up really well. They have a great paint scheme that will easily fool some ducks. They do have a harder plastic formation similar to the Higdon. However, The paint seems a little less glossy. Overall was very pleased with the decoys. They didn’t chip or scratch during our hunts. They also hit that $40 price point which it won’t break the bank.
- The box offers 4 drakes and 2 hens.
Overall you won’t be disappointed with any of these decoys. With a proper spread, you can easily fool wood ducks. I try and bunch them up in a realistic offering that gives you a chance to shoot at passing birds.Â Try and set up with a crosswind, as wood ducks are harder to decoy. The misconception is that they won’t but I’ve seen it first hand they will decoy. Wood ducks don’t need a big fancy idea for your decoy spread, but rather just a small group of decoys that give you an angle to shoot over.
Wood Duck Calling
It’s not too complicated to get the sound right for wood ducks.Â A simple woo-eek, woo-eek, will give passing birds the sound they need to hear to feel safe and commit for a closer look. Buying a wood duck call is probably the next cheapest purchase you’ll make for duck hunting. You can grab a simple Buck Gardner call for less than $10. The thing you don’t have to do with wood ducks is toÂ hammer on that call like you may choose to do with mallards. A soft woo-eek woo-eek or sw-eet sw-eet is really all that is necessary to grab their attention.
Wood Duck Shooting… or Missing
Wood Ducks are a fast wing shooter. If you have ever experienced some early teal season you will have some experience with fast birds. Wood ducks can dodge, juke and dive so quickly. No surprise they can make it through trees and thick brush without crashing. However, this does require some accuracy when shooting. Wood ducks tend to one of two things they may cup up and drop in for a quick splash and dash or they will buzz by at mach 1. Therefore being alert and a fast shooter is necessary to bag a limit and not miss.
After being able to experience wood duck hunting it’s probably one of the cheapest ways and easiest ways to get into duck hunting. There is a lot of public lands that have streams and rivers that can be hunted throughout the country. You may not experience the tornado of mallards when field hunting. However, for less than $200 bucks you can easily have the required gear to go wood duck hunting. I actually enjoy the challenge of small rivers and thick cover to find ducks. It can be quite a rewarding challenge when you bag your first duck.
Hunter’s Tip: If you’re freezing your ducks before cooking them, be sure to vacuum seal them so they don’t get freezer burnt & compromise the quality of the meat. You can read about The Upland Hunter’s favorite vacuum sealers here.
SHOOTER TIP: Don’t forget to clean your gun after each use. Check out the top reviews on gun solvents here.