Paddling to the Ducks
By Bernie Barringer
There are pros and cons to canoeing to your ducks rather than using a motor. If it is illegal to use the motor, or you just prefer the solitude and the quiet swoosh of a paddle in the water to the purring of a motor, this is another great way to access ducks that are being overlooked by other hunters. Obviously there is an advantage to travelling downstream in a canoe, while it is easier to hunt both upstream and downstream in a motorized craft.
The best bet is to leave one vehicle at the end of the hunt, so you have a way to load the canoes and go back to the upstream launch point and retrieve the other vehicle. It's a little time-consuming, but it can be a lot more effective and less tiring than paddling back upstream through areas that you have already hunted.
We've had some of our best jump shooting by leaving the canoe for short periods. Here's where the quiet aspects of canoeing will give you an advantage. You will often hear ducks ahead of you, maybe just around the bend. Sometimes you may see ducks land up ahead. Sharp bends in the river offer opportunities to beach the canoe and sneak across a small piece of land.
You can creep up on ducks that would otherwise flush out of range if you came around a bend in the river say 60 yards away. Most of the time, the shot ducks fall in the river and you can jump back in the canoe to retrieve them. If they land aground, it's a simple matter to paddle across the river and get them. You are your own bird dog
The same small rivers and streams mentioned above work the best for paddling, but they are not the only option. One year my buddy Jimmy Hill and I shot a bunch of ducks out of a small cattail pond on private land. It was an out-of-the-way little pond, but we slid a canoe into the edge of it and paddled slowly through the openings in the cattails, shooting ducks as they flew up in front of us. Once again, we didn't have to use any decoys, and during the middle part of the day when the ducks aren't flying, this is a great way to sneak up on them when they least expect it.
An old rule of thumb holds true: When the ducks are moving, you sit still and wait for them to come to you. When the ducks are sitting still, you move and go to them. That sounds far too basic to have much merit, but it is true in virtually every case.