We were hunting woodcock and ruffed grouse when we stumbled onto two dozen mallards loafing away the day in a beaver pond.
As the hens and drakes lifted off we watched in amazement. The property, a good-sized parcel of public land in central Wisconsin, was not unfamiliar ground to us.
We’d hunted it many times for grouse, but never wandered close enough to a tiny creek that flows along the western boundary.
What we didn’t realize until we poured over the area via aerial photos was that beavers had done a pretty good job of damming up the creek to create a series of tucked-away ponds. Ideal duck spots.
Since then, my hunting buddies and I have spent a lot of time trying to ferret out quality duck spots on public land.
It’s a strategy that mirrors what we do when looking for bowhunting spots, and these days with modern technology, it’s pretty easy to find promising water.
If that water happens to be secluded and tough to get to that’s all the better. If it sits next to a road or a two-track that anyone could get to with an ATV, we skip it. If we have to hike through a swamp for half of a mile to check it out, then we know most people won’t hunt it.
It’s really that simple.
If you’re bumming about not having a primo duck hunting spot, it might be a good idea to get on the Internet map site and start scouting.
Take note of all ponds, even those that don’t look any bigger than a puddle (it’s deceiving at first because everything will appear much smaller than reality).
Make note of all surface water that looks difficult to reach on public ground, and go hiking.
I like to put on my knee-high rubber boots and simply go for a walk with my dog right now. If there is water in the ponds in August, it will be there in October. And so will the ducks.
These public-land forays also give me the chance to decide how best to hunt each spot so I don’t need to waste any time once I sneak up to the water in the predawn darkness.