A few weeks ago, I went duck hunting. It was a 12-hour effort to pack, drive, hunt, drive and unpack. I went mid-week – which is not ideal if you want other hunters to be around to push up a few birds. I went out at the wrong time of day – starting around lunch when birds are not likely to be moving and coming back in before sunset, where there is a window of opportunity of catching birds moving to roost. I went out in the wrong weather – a clear windless day, which reduces the chances of birds moving. Last of all I just walked the relatively open swamp I was hunting – out in the open with minimal chance of success. I had everything stacked against me – and was rewarded with an empty bag.
As I wearily got back to my car the Warden of the private hunting property I was on drove by and tactfully pointed out I was doing it all wrong. I agreed – but said I had a very small window of opportunity to get out of the city, and a bad hunt was better than no hunt at all. He remarked that I might have had more luck if I hadn’t come in so early. I agreed – but said I had to be home to take one of my children to an activity. I then said what I was really doing was scouting for a future hunt, watching the flight paths the birds took, working out where I would setup. I recounted what I had observed, and he was able to confirm what I had thought and gave additional information about where other hunters often went, adjacent wetlands that birds travelled between, and the different behaviour of some of the common species on the swamp.
A couple days ago, I went duck hunting. It was a 12-hour effort to pack, drive, hunt, drive and unpack. I had planned to go earlier but the weather was too calm, so I delayed the trip. This delay also increased the chance other hunters would be about. I was on the road at 3:30am to ensure I arrived and was setup well before sunset. Instead of finding some random spot, I waded straight to the location I wanted to hunt in the dark, under the intersection of two flight paths I had earlier observed. I put out a small set of decoys. At this point in the season birds were weary of landing in anything but larger decoy spreads, so this small grouping was more about confidence and explaining my calls. As the sun rose the wind picked up noticeably and other hunters started to shoot. In very tricky conditions I had an enjoyable and successful hunt and came home with a good feed.
When you hunt solo like I have been the last couple of years you can sometimes stumble into a very successful hunt by chance, but mostly, it requires a lot of preparation and effort to have some semblance of success.
This playing EVE analogy was brought to you by the wild duck stew I will be eating tonight.