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Waterfowling on the Surface: 5 Tips for More Surface Water Birds

Find more success with these simple waterfowling tips, and you'll almost certainly bag more birds.

Whether you hunt the rivers, lakes, or backwood sloughs, birds will nevertheless change their patterns throughout the early fall and winter.

Now many of these locations are flowing fast with deep, muddy water, and surface water is sprawling into fields and overflowing creeks and ponds. Some of the outlying areas where the water is now seeping into may be a hunter's best bet.

Many of these locations are surrounded by wood patches, grain, grass, corn stubble, or other pasture lands, and this is what I like to call hunting "surface water" waterfowl.

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Birds cannot resist these places, since they provide ample amounts of fresh feed as well as open water where they can easily detect predators.

This in turn poses serious problems for us hunters. How do we hunt these birds with such high visibility in relation to our blinds?

1. Get it covered

The first objective is actually pretty simple: we take advantage of the available cover or create our own.

First of all, look to see where the water is coming from. Is it an overflow from a pond or small creek? Or is it just ground saturation?

There will likely be taller grasses near the small creeks or wooded/brushy outcroppings adjacent to other bodies of water. Locations such as these provide some great places to construct hide or place a ground blind.

Staying low can be somewhat uncomfortable or precarious, but is necessary and very rewarding.

2. Use the contour

Always make sure to use field contours to help keep your profile hidden. When hunting surface water open flooded fields, I like to use Avery grass coverings that match the fields color.


Looking for power poles that have brush at the base (especially near the guide wires) is helpful, too. Field borders and fence rows are the best places to seek refuge especially since they are natural.

These are always great places to hide near open water.

3. Adjust the call and decoy approach

Minimal use of decoys and sporadic light calling tend to work best in surface water or flooded field situations.

Troy Rodakowski

Calling usually requires movement and in these instances you will need to hold as still as possible. Light mallard feed calls or teal/pintail whistles are very useful during these scenarios.

In flooded areas, near wooded locations use small groups of wood duck, mallard and wigeon decoys. Setting them in groups of 3-4 birds totaling about 16 will suffice.

Large expanses of surface water in open fields will require more decoys. Make sure to use them in an open style V or X formation with plenty of landing zones available near your location. Pintail, mallards, wigeon and teal are good dekes to use in these situations.

4. Spice it up

I also like to throw in 2-5 Canada honkers into the spread for good measure. You will likely attract quite a potpourri of birds including geese. Cackling Canada geese will likely remain higher and circle your spread numerous times.

6. Higdon Decoys® Half Shell Canada Goose Decoys, 12 - Pk.

If possible, place some decoys near the shore or field edges where the water meets. Standing sentry style and feeders work best along the edges and look very natural.

The best shooting seems to be at first light on stormy, foggy and windy days. Evening hunts are quite productive as well especially, when the "ground fog" rolls in to aide in concealment.

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Waterfowling on the Surface: 5 Tips for More Surface Water Birds