How to Hunt Ducks
improve your calling.
Ideal duck hunting weather is chilly, breezy and wet, which is why longtime duck hunters accumulate an entire wardrobe exclusively for their chosen sport. Wool and plastic will do if you can’t afford breathable, water-resistant fabrics and exotic insulation. Just be sure to dress in layers that you can shed to avoid soaking your clothes with sweat when setting out decoys or doing other chores.
Camouflage is essential. Make sure everything ducks might see - including you - is covered in camo.
You can purchase all the essentials of duck hunting for well under $1,000, or half that if you already own a serviceable shotgun and waders.
Where and When
"...ducks fly best when the weather’s worst." - Ed Zern, Wings and Water, Guns and Dogs
The most obvious question facing beginning duck hunters is, "Where can I hunt?" The question that bedevils beginners and graybeards alike is, "When should I hunt?" The Conservation Department can help you answer both questions.
Missouri has dozens of wetland areas where you can hunt ducks. Thirteen have managed duck hunts with limited access to ensure hunting quality and safety. These are listed in the annual Migratory Bird Digest, available wherever duck stamps are sold. Half the daily hunting slots at these areas are awarded through a reservation process in September. The other half are awarded by drawing each morning.
Hunters who show up for daily drawings run the risk of being turned away, but the process provides access to Conservation Department personnel who may know about good spots and can tell you how to get there.
You can get information online about which areas have the most ducks. Waterfowl distribution survey data is available at www.mdc.mo.gov/hunt.
Often, the best time to hunt is when an arctic cold front moves into Missouri, pushing migrating ducks ahead of it. Watch weekly waterfowl surveys at such times and be ready to hunt the next day. Daily duck harvest data from various areas, also posted on the Conservation Department’s website, provides further insights into where the hunting is hot. Another option is to visit with other duck hunters through the Conservation Department’s online "Conservation Café," at www.mdc.mo.gov/chat/.
Once you learn the basics of duck hunting at these areas, you can find your own secret hunting spot on one of Missouri’s big rivers, around a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reservoir or on a local lake or wetland.
Secrets of the "raft"
"The waterfowler who lures birds to