So much of waterfowl hunting success stems from scouting.
The only real way to attempt to stack the odds in your favor is to have an intimate knowledge of the types of birds that are in the area and the ways in which they use the land and water around them.
Since geese and ducks are migratory birds, this can require a significant amount of effort.
Here are some tips for getting the most out of your scouting sessions.
Put in the time
To put it simply: during hunting season, ducks and geese move. This is either due to hunting pressure or the fact that it’s time for them to migrate.
That means that any knowledge gained from a scouting trip is only valid for so long. The birds you saw on Tuesday may not be the same birds you’ll encounter over the weekend. So scouting regularly is a must.
Even if the birds don’t seem to be moving, changes in weather or the status of agricultural fields can shift bird behavior. The only way to stay in the know is to scout as often as possible.
It’s definitely a time investment, but it’s one that can pay huge dividends.
But do it at the right time
This can be tricky because, like it or not, we all have responsibilities outside of hunting that command our time and attention.
That said, the timing of your scouts is crucial. Waterfowl are creatures of habit.
Did you see a pile of ducks loafing at a local pothole at noon? Great. But unless you plan to be hunting at noon, that information doesn’t necessarily do a ton for you.
If you’re hunting mornings, scout that area in the morning. If you are an evening person, start driving around in the late afternoon.
Any scouting is better than no scouting. But doing your detective work at the same time of day you plan to hunt will generally be more impactful.
Don’t be afraid to chase
Let’s say you roll up to your spot a few days before you plan to hunt it and there aren’t any birds present. Don’t fret. All is not lost.
Keep your eyes peeled for birds flying in the area. Don’t be afraid to put your rig in drive and follow them.
If you don’t see anything after a while, meander around and see if you can find other fields or bodies of water the birds have been favoring.
Even if you aren’t “on the x,” confirming there are birds in the area and knowing their patterns will help you run traffic with confidence.
When I find a cut cornfield full of geese or skim water that’s loaded with ducks, I get just as excited as the next person. However, busting up your spot in hopes of getting a closer look is likely to negate any of the positives that came from your scouting.
Keep your distance and don’t linger if you don’t have to. You’ll have all the time in the world to look at those birds when they are nicely stacked on your tailgate.
A decent pair of binoculars is an absolute must.
First and foremost, binoculars allow you to mind your distance.
They also give you a closer look at the details. What type of birds are you dealing with? What are they doing? How many are there?
This is all helpful information for prepping your game plan.
Record your findings
Even the best scouting trips are rendered useless if you can’t accurately recall the information you gained.
Don’t assume you’ll remember. Jot down your new intel in a notebook. Tap out a quick note on your phone. Text your hunting buddies. Do something that will put your findings in writing and do it immediately.