December 06, 2011
When Waterfowlers Lie, Turn to Birdwatchers to Help Zero In on Area Ducks
By Chad Love
When it comes to divulging useful information about the ducks and geese they hunt, waterfowlers are easily the shiftiest, most obtuse and completely untrustworthy pack of liars in the outdoors. I know I am, and I'm pretty sure you are, too.
Asking a duck hunter, especially a public water duck hunter, to share info about the ducks he's been seeing is tantamount to asking him to share Polaroids of his wife. It just 'aint gonna happen. Oh, they'll tell you what you want to hear. They'll give you all sorts of detailed information, virtually all of it of the "lies, damn lies and statistics" variety.
Why? Because duck hunters are, just like their quarry, a highly mobile, highly motivated bunch. One slip-up on your part about seeing early-season migrators piling into XYZ slough, and the next thing you know there are four groups of guys from three states mud-motoring all over your spot. Sounds paranoid, but it's happened to me more than once.
That's also why I don't generally use (no offense to the organizations that offer them) those real-time fall migration maps. A program is only as good as the data it's fed, and I figure if those applications rely on reports from other like-minded duck hunters, they're probably trying to game the system to deflect attention from their areas. I would. Again, sounds paranoid, but that's life in the age of Internet scouting.
But if you really want to get you and your dog into some birds, here's a tip on a gold mine of potential waterfowl information that's right under your nose and right at your fingertips, and the best part is it's completely tamper-proof from waterfowling degenerates like us: birdwatching listservs. That's right, birdwatchers.
Laugh if you must, but if you're a birder (and I bet a lot of you are), you know that most are just as hard-core as the most dedicated waterfowler. They spend just as much time in the field glassing, scouting and observing as we do; they know their birds as well or better than we do. They cover just as much territory as we do and they take meticulous note of what they see. The difference is, birders then go back and share that info with everyone on their state's birding listserv or forum. And that's a treasure trove of useful information for the enterprising duck hunter.
Subscribe to your state's birding listserv or forum and you get valuable and trustworthy information on all sorts of waterfowl intelligence, from when early migrants start showing up in your area and what ducks are most prevalent to how many birds got pushed out (or pushed in) by the last front. And as an added bonus, it just might get you hooked on expanding your avian interests beyond gamebirds. I've been subscribing to my state's listserv for a number of years, and I've used that info to seek out not only waterfowl, but other birds I'd otherwise never know were in the area. For a good example of that, see today's Field Notes blog on this year's snowy owl eruption. Without subscribing to my state's birding listserv, I never would have known about that snowy owl.
Has anyone else used birding listservs or forums as an Internet scouting tool?