Sandbar Ducks on the Big Muddy

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Published on: Nov. 2, 2003

Last revision: Nov. 16, 2010

any other pursuit, puts you in touch with the awe that early explorers felt as they headed into this wildlife treasure trove.

Where to go

Some of the best places to hunt ducks on the Missouri River are adjacent to public wetland areas. The stretches of river near Lower Hamburg Bend (Atchison County), Bob Brown (Holt County), Grand Pass (Saline County) and Eagle Bluffs (Boone County) conservation areas all fit the bill. Howell Island Conservation Area (St. Charles County) also is good. When wetland development is complete at Columbia Bottom Conservation Area (St. Louis County) next year, this area will be a waterfowl magnet for river duck hunters.

Instead of trying to get ducks to come where you want them, it makes sense to hunt where ducks naturally want to be. You can discover these areas by drifting a stretch of river and scanning areas off the main channel with binoculars.

Side channels are good prospects. So are the head and tail ends of islands. When scouting, take time to explore islands, mud flats and low banks behind wing dikes, even if you don't see birds there. Droppings deposited in such areas prove that Canada geese are feeding and resting there. Ducks often loaf in these sheltered areas, too.

How to set up

Choose a spot where you can set your decoys within shooting distance of land. It's a good idea to place a few decoys at the water's edge and a foot or two on shore to give the impression of safety.

Wind direction is critical. Unlike flat, open wetlands, the river has features that can be obstacles to approaching ducks. Bluffs and treelined banks downwind of your decoy spread make landing hard and can prompt ducks to go elsewhere. When the river is very low, even an exposed wing dike can ruin an otherwise promising hunting spot.

Once you find a workable location, your biggest problem is concealment. Natural vegetation may provide partial cover along river banks, allowing you to simply cover yourself with a camouflage tarp. The jumbled surface of wing dikes can provide concealment, too. Most times, however, you have to create a "hide" of some kind. The challenge is greatest on flat, featureless sandbars.

If logs and driftwood are available, you can arrange them to form an impromptu hide that breaks up your body's silhouette. A tarp or burlap sheet arranged over a framework of

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