October 24, 2011
How Do You Duck Hunt When There's No Water or Cover?
By Chad Love
You may recall my unfettered joy at finally having a boat from which the dog and I could duck hunt out of this year. But, as it often goes, this particular joy was premature, fleeting and is now dead, thanks to an epic and ongoing drought that has dropped the water level on my home reservoir (and virtually every other lake within reasonable driving distance) so far below the boat ramps that you could hardly launch a rubber duckie, much less a 16-foot boat.
Not only that, but all the sloughs, ponds and backwaters around my home lake are also bone-dry, as are all my other duck hunting spots. That leaves the main body of the lake (what's left of it) as my only real option this year. So instead of cruising across the lake surface with a boat full of dozens of decoys, sipping my coffee and living the good life, I'll be, once again, hoisting a decoy bag across my tired old shoulders and hoofing it across a mostly dry lakebed. And here's where I need your advice.
We've got a lake level so low that shoreline cover--where in a normal year I'd build a blind--is now fifty to sixty yards (or more) from the waterline, and there's not a stick of cover between, just a flat expanse of sand. So the dog and I are completely exposed. I don't own a layout blind to hide in, nor do I own a kayak, sneakboat or other low-profile duck boat that could navigate the shallow water. And since I have to walk farther to reach huntable water, I have to carry fewer decoys.
So how do the dog and I hunt in this scenario? Do I carry a shovel with me and dig a couple small pits at the waterline for us to lie in, and perhaps cover up with some grass mats? Or do I stick to the shoreline cover and hope to get a few passing shots? And what about decoys? I always try to have a mix of puddlers and divers in my spread, but with a limit of, say, 16 to 18 standard-sized decoys, what would your killer small-set mix look like?