JANUARY WATERFOWLING IS A FIRST (January 13/14)

I was in a blind on a slight rise of ground with the dykes behind me, my decoys spread out in the snow. Wearing white camouflage and partially hidden by a snow drift, I hoped there was enough concealment to fool ducks. It was the third day of the extended season, and as far as I know the first time ever in Kings County for January puddle duck hunting.

Earlier I spotted ducks scattered all over the field I was set up in. By a small patch of standing corn the snow had been covered with ducks. Some were dropping into the corn, but most of the ducks were scattered over the field. Looking the situation over and after checking out the field a couple of times, I decided to set a blind up several hundred meters from the standing corn.

Now, if you’re a waterfowler, you undoubtedly see something wrong with the scenario I’ve described. If most of the ducks were feeding in the corn and the field around it, why was I set up so far away from the hotspot? Why wasn’t I down in the corn where it seemed a sure thing to bag a few ducks?

The answer is the hunting regulation that, in effect, says no one can hunt legally within 182 meters of a building. Nearby was a small outbuilding I estimated probably wasn’t legal shooting distance from the stand of corn. Maybe it was more than 182 meters from the outbuilding to the corn, maybe it wasn’t. I couldn’t tell for sure. Bottom line is that I didn’t want to chance running afoul of game wardens and have them decide I was legal or not. I stayed well away from the corn, setting up my blind where I knew I was okay and where I had permission to hunt. I was hoping of course to attract some of the ducks that were winging into the corn.

This didn’t happen. Not a single duck came my way. I was simply outdecoyed by all the birds feeding around the corn. I sat in that ditch four hours on the coldest days of the winter and watched a couple of hundred black ducks and mallards wing into the corn and ignore my decoys and calling.

That was my first January duck hunting experience but it wouldn’t be my last. Snowshoeing on the dykes in past winters I’d found that even when dykeland fields were covered with snow, ducks still came into them; some were feeding in corn stubbles, some apparently just resting. Like a lot of hunters I took advantage of this during the extended season this year and it was surprisingly good.

Summing up the short January season here, one hunter told me that to get some ducks “all you had to do was throw some decoys out on the snow and hide in a ditch.” Well, almost. I should have told him about the field I found, where there was standing corn hundreds of ducks visited every day. Why should I be the only one frustrated?

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