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swedishpimple

Full of Bull on Duck ID's

23 posts in this topic

I have noticed a something on (Contact Us Please) and this forum that tells a lot of duck hunters are full of bull.

So many guys claim to only shoot drakes. They give a report that goes something like this...."a flock of mallards came in and I passed on 3 hens to drop 2 drakes in the rear."....ummm humm..sure..you do this all the time. Pretty tough most of the year to tell a drake from a hen in these parts.

Even from species to species is tough. Last weekend our party shot a teal we all thought was a woodie and vice versa. After we limited on woodies we decided we better call it quits. In the hazy light we has and light mist they were tough to tell apart.

Cans and Redheads can be tough too. I have seen that one blown before.

Ringbills and Scaup can be tough in some locations.

I shoot mixed bags and I shoot hens....I am not afraid to say it. I also only make it out 4 or 5 times a year and rarely limit.

I am totally wrong here or do you guys sometimes shoot a duck and ID later??? I typically know..or think I know..but it seams like I make lots of mistakes compared to some of the "do-gooders" you run across.

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It can be difficult at sunrise, but most of the time you can identify hens/drakes and different species.

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I am with you with this one. It is common in our blind to shoot and disagree on the type of duck that is down. The only time we really take a hard look at the type of duck before shooting is if we are close or at our limit on a certain type. I guess a PRO bird watcher maybe could tell between every type, but i doubt it. We do let the big Scissorbills go, can't mistake those. This discussion is much like the one about deer hunting. "i shot a spiker the other day" "how much did it weigh?" "150" "big spiker, did you weigh it" "no, but we can tell it was 150" confused.gif

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I try my best to ID drakes/hens, but am not always perfect.

Where we hunt, its primarily Ring-Necks. Certain flocks are predominantly brown and you aren't sure what to do. Than other flocks are full of black chested, white bellied drakes which makes the drake/hen distinction pretty easy.

We don't see many Bluebills (Scaup) but they do fly differently than Ring-Necks and have a lot more white on their wings. We usually have the flock identified, between Scaup or Ring-Necks, before they come in on approach and then its a matter of looking for black heads and chests.

With Mallards, its really really tough when the drakes are just starting to get green heads & brown chests. But when the limit allows 1 hen per person, its incredibly important to make that distinction before pulling the trigger. The drakes will typically be a little darker than hens in the head/chest area, even when they are eclipse.

With 2-3 guys in the blind, we chat quite a bit when birds are coming in. The drake is on the left... more drakes on the left... no drakes in the flock... etc just to help each other out.

The other ID which is very important where we hunt is Merganser. Merganser! Merganser! Don't shoot! grin.gif They are more aerodynamic in flight and fly with their heads down and pointy, usually yellow/orange feet hanging in the back as well. Even when we are yelling Merganser, someone in the blind will still goof it up. grin.gif

We're really striving for Drakes only but we're not quite there yet with my hunting party. We're probably at about 80%.

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I only make it out duck hunting 4-5 times a year as well. I consider it a successful hunt if I get to shoot my gun, not based on the number of ducks I bring home. In my mind this means I was able to pull enough things together to convince at least one duck to come check out my decoy spread. All last year I was only able to harvest one duck, a female Can. I simply haven't figured things out yet, including how to hit those things when they're flying 120 mph.

At the other end of the spectrum you have the folks that get out 20 times each season. They know how to set up. They know how to call. They rarely miss a shot. They can notice the slight differences between drakes and hens within a fraction of a second. And most importantly they have access to the best locations for hunting. Their experience provides them the edge that produces great hunts day in and day out.

Now, on this site you generally have two groups of people who post questions/stories. Those like myself who have a lot to learn, and those who are able to share about their successful hunts. Regardless of ability I would hope everyone makes an effort to identify what it is they are shooting at before they pull the trigger. As far as some groups harvesting primarily just drakes, many people can be selective in what they take, and this is something that we should all strive for.

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Hanson,

this is the hardest part about hunting this early in the season. Identifing these eclipse birds are for the most part very difficult. This is another reason we like to hunt fields vs. water. Most ducks come in allot closer or will circle around one more time to give a hunter another chance to communicate the drakes.

Good topic.

mr

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I never thought od the field aspect....you are right..they will circle...over water..they seem to bzz and be gone...rarely coming back.

That may play as much of a role as anything...especially with the North Dakota boys and all of their chatter.

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Quote:

I never thought od the field aspect....you are right..they will circle...over water..they seem to bzz and be gone...rarely coming back.

That may play as much of a role as anything...especially with the North Dakota boys and all of their chatter.


Ya, I'm ND bound on Tuesday!!!!!!!!!! Yipppyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy

I spoke with some of my ND contacts and say the "black geese" are pretty thick right now and some good early migration mixed in with some locals. Short grain is 35% out and corn will not be touched until end of month. So my goal is to find some bean fields that just got picked and load up and get ready. Might just have to get my duck ID book out again with the eclipse images to refresh my memory.

later,

mr grin.gif

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early in the year i shoot any ducks that come in. and later on i try to pick out drakes. last year we hunted nov 5th in a blizzard and -15 we shot 24 ducks in 35 minutes. 4 hens and 20 drakes

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That lone mallard in the decoys before sunrise -- quack, quack, quack is a hen.

Bring them in close enough and even the most juvey drake mallard can be identified.

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Well, we actually do pass on several hens before pulling the trigger. We rarely get the opportunity to shoot immediately after sunrise simply because we can not identify them.. With that said, we do shoot a few hens by accident. It happens and nobody can deny that. In fact, last weekend we had a few hens shot that we were certain they were drakes. It was raining and all of the birds were soaking wet making it even tougher to identify.

Here are a few pictures of a few of our ealy season hunts...

During these hunts, we watched hundreds of ducks fly over before pulling the trigger..

100_0033.jpg

100_0037.jpg

IMG_0656.jpg

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I think with experience, you can be pretty sure of each duck you are shooting. It's about noticing the little things and having enough restraint to pass on a duck that you are unsure of. When pass shooting at 50+ yds, I don't pretend to be able to tell. But if you are decoying them over water or land you should be pretty sure of the species and sex.

Now don't get me wrong if I get out once a year and only shoot 1 or 2 ducks a year, I'd be blazing away at them too. I've just been lucky enough in my life to shoot plenty of ducks, so I am a little more relaxed out there, and I'm OK with passing on a few.....less to clean when i get home too.

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If it matters then in doubt dont shoot.........

Hummmmmm we have'nt heard on the news of the usual clowns shooting swans ....

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It really comes down to experience. Field experience. We had a good shoot this weekend. Saturday...nice and sunny we actually did pass on many hens...picking out the drakes. As earlier posted we talk to one another...drake on the left...no now its in the middle, etc. We each to our limit of four drake mallards. As a side note..I also shot my first widgeon...two to be exact. Sunday with the rain it was much harder...our first two shots we both ended up shooting hen mallards..so we really had to be careful. It didn't matter because we didn't see much more...two more widgeons, one gwt and a buffie. But I digress, back to the experience factor...a buddy of mine who I work with is just starting out, we were paging through a DU magazine and he would say...what is that? I would shoot him a puzzled look and then give him the answer...he didn't even know what a fully feathered out drake woodie looked like. wow. But..he doesn't know. Instead of slandering people on a web forum...maybe we should take time in and off the field to help beginners out. I was a beginner once...and really still consider myself to be so...I learn something new almost everytime out. I've had my nose buried in bird and animal books since before I could read the words..so for me bird id may be easier than for some. Get out there and learn....and dont be afraid to pass up a shot...alot of times they'll just circle around and give you a better, closer look anyways.

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I always thought it was impossible to tell too, until the limits became the way they are now. I would hate to use up my "Pick-em" bird in ND on a hen mallard when there is a chance a nice pintail or canvas back will be in the next flock. Even in MN, when you only have one hen to shoot, you have to get really good fast, or have really short hunts. It helps when you have another guy or two helping with the "third one from the back is the drake". We have had flocks of 15 mallards come in and only have one or two drakes in it that we can "safely" identify. Other times we have had flocks of 10 come in with 10 drakes. I really enjoy duck hunting a lot more now that I can identify ducks. I think it really forces a person to be a better hunter(getting closer shots).

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I'm in total agreence with ironman, and many others who have mentioned FIELD EXPIERIENCE is the only way to get better at IDing birds, that and its a combination of characteristics(and knowing what to look for). From a basic level, to the more complex...one basic thing may be divers vs puddle ducks, which you can tell in flight and getting off the water. On wing there are body shape and size characteristics, like the streamlined shape of a pintail, or head/beak contour of a can(those you gotta watch close in ND). Colors that may distinguish species and sex, that change from eclipse to full plumage, thats when it starts getting really tough at this time of year. I cannot by any means ID birds to this level, I hunt in ND with some guys that can pretty well, we communicate and you pick things up as you go (like thats a hen mallard, no it's a gadwall its got a black rear). The better you learn the features through field expierience, the more they will stick out. If its early and I don't know what it is, I don't shoot it. Everybody does shoot hens, theres nothing wrong with that. For many people it is their goal to go out and say, I shot a limit of greenheads, and some days thats mine too. It is a goal of mine to shoot drakes, because thats good managment; But just about any time I can I shoot a diversity of ducks, I think that is cool. Some species get downtalked for whatever reason, but diversity is good. I enjoy hunting them all: cans, pins, gadwall, scaup, widgeon, mallards, teal, woodies, redheads, spoonies, yeah I said spoonies. None of these are bad ducks....kinda reminds me of something a biologist once told me in conversation: Its funny how people have something against eelpout(burbot)(unless your from Walker) grin.gif, do they not know that its closely related to cod and one of the best tasting freshwater fish in the US, but they pile them up dead on the ice confused.gif. Kinda got off topic a bit, but hopefully some of you guys are with me. Those ducks will be starting to color up good now soon, cause there is one thing I do enjoy as the season progresses: shooting nice looking ducks. Good Huntin

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my brother inlaw made me the duck addict i am he said if you cant id it dont shoot i try my best not to kill hen mallards and divers it still happens

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Our group put a $10 fee on any hen shot this year. I can tell you that we sure weren't shooting many of the first of the morning ducks unless they were teal because of the difficulty with picking out drakes.

Sometimes you'll get lucky and notice the lower toned "kweck" of a drake mallard early giving you the green light. But as many people above have said, it takes practice and experience, especially the first couple weeks of season. Good luck everyone

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Personally, I can identify type and sex of duck 90% of the time before shooting.

Sometimes, it is hard or you just can't. Othertimes it is easy.

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some people cant even id a goose. yesterday i seen a guy at carlos avery shoot a pelican. mad.gif

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Quote:

some people cant even id a goose. yesterday i seen a guy at carlos avery shoot a pelican.
mad.gif


uh...did you call the c/o?

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Quote:

some people cant even id a goose. yesterday i seen a guy at carlos avery shoot a pelican.
mad.gif


I was out at carlos today and had a person of asian decent say, as a pelican was flying by, "boy, that's a big snow goose." Hmmm......

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Duck identification comes with lots and lots of practice.

Our season starts Sept. 1st and already by then you can tell the difference between drake and hen, Canvasbacks, Mallards, and bluebills. By about the 3rd week in September you can really start to pick out the drake widgeon as well. The only thing i have a hard time with are the Pintails. They seem to get their colors later up here than all other birds.

One thing that helps alot is skip the first light round of banging.

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