Sandbar Ducks on the Big Muddy

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Published on: Nov. 2, 2003

Last revision: Nov. 16, 2010

driftwood stuck in the sand works, too. One very effective approach is the pit hide. This consists of a grave-like depression just deep enough to put your nose and toes below ground level. A small shovel and rake are indispensable for this project.

After digging the pit, arrange pieces of driftwood across the opening and lay a tarp across them. Cover the bottom and side edges of the tarp with sand. A few pieces of driftwood across the tarp will also help disguise your hide. Then use the rake to spread out any piled-up sand and erase your footprints and slip under the tarp to wait for your quarry.

Pit hides can be surprisingly comfortable. They offer shelter from wind and rain, and a closed-cell foam ground pad keeps your backside warm and dry. You'll have to resist the temptation to snooze.

When choosing tarps for camouflage, remember that driftwood, sand, and rock rip-rap are much lighter-colored than most marsh camouflage patterns. Plain burlap and old, faded tarps are better choices. Faded tan or brown coveralls blend well with river sand.

If you wear bifocal eyeglasses, leave them at home and wear single-vision lenses when hunting from a pit hide. Lying flat on your back forces you to look through the bottom half of the lenses. It's maddening to try to focus on incoming ducks through lenses made for looking at objects two feet away.

Unless you are hunting from your boat, anchor it as far as practical from your blind. Prop logs and sticks at random angles around the outside of the craft, then drape tarps on top to break up the boat's straight lines.

What you need

The most important piece of equipment for river duck hunting is a riverworthy boat. A sturdy river johnboat at least 16 feet long, with a large enough motor to push you upstream is advisable. Smaller craft may be adequate for short trips in good weather.

If you must motor the river in the pre-dawn darkness, bring a spotlight to help you navigate. Dense fog is common. Allow plenty of time to reach your hunting spot so you aren't tempted to go faster than is safe.

River sand can damage fine guns or cause them to jam. Field-worn but serviceable double-barrels purchased for modest prices are ideal.

Pack extra fuel, clothing, food, hot beverages and a propane heater in case you get wet and need to warm up. Cell phones don't always work on the river, so tell a friend where you are going and when you expect to return.

Waterfowl loads

Waterfowl hunters must use federally approved, non-toxic shot. Steel shot is the most popular and least expensive option. If used with a proper load/choke/shot size combination, it's very effective at ranges of up to 40 yards.

Other non-toxic shot options are bismuth-tin, tungsten-iron, tungstenpolymer and tungsten matrix.These loads, which are available at most major retailers and firearms dealerships, are heavier and more dense than steel, which increases their stopping power within reasonable ranges.

For shooting ducks at close range over decoys, use No. 1 or No. 2 shot from a 12-gauge shotgun and an improved cylinder choke. For pass shooting, use a modified choke.

Bryan Hendricks

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