The north wind doth blow . . .
Old Man Winter flexed his muscles last week and the snow and cold weather
of the northern-tier counties slowed the duck hunting there without helping
it mightily in central and southern parts of the state.
Still, for the army of jump-shooters, the cold snap of last week has
created some good duck hunting on rivers and streams of central and southern
portions of the state. It will be even better if low air temps continue
to ice up standing waters and we get enough rain to bring streams and river
to low flood stages before the South Zone
season ends January 14.
Let's face it. The best duck hunting in Indiana comes for the hunter
who plunks his posterior on the seat of a small boat and sits quietly behind
a makeshift screen of weeds and chicken wire while a companion quietly
steers the boat to likely duck haunts.
Once there . . . once the ducks see the hunters and start changing their
addresses . . . everything comes naturally (and safely, I hope) for the
hunters. The makin's of some duck dinners soon are in the boat.
One friend of mine allows that sitting in a duck blind on Monroe Reservoir's
Stillwater Marsh, or any of numerous other favored places for ducks, is
plenty exciting when the birds are ladder-walking down to the decoys.
Frankly, I do not look with jaundiced eye on such activities. But a
floating jump shoot on a river or stream can offer the same excitement,
not to mention the fact that the tree and cornfield-lined banks of rivers
and streams also offer great opportunity for winter squirrel hunting
Then, of course, I see ducks leaving just as exciting as ducks coming
in--perhaps even more so.
So how does a hunter go about rigging for a floating jump-shoot?
You start with the boat.
I have known successful hunters who used canoes, but this has never
seemed safe to me, especially when rivers and streams are at flood stage
and rolling. A "V-bottom" boat probably offers greater safety than a flat
bottom, jon-type, but having used both, I prefer the latter. The important
thing to remember lies in the fact that any overloaded boat is a dunking
waiting to happen.
Rigging a screen of chicken wire (fencing) should be done on dry land
after the hunter (hunters) have learned how the boat floats naturally with
the weight it will carry, remembering that a boat rigged to require a minimum
of paddle effort will make the hunt more successful. The screen should
not be low enough to cover the forward end of the boat without being in
A screen of wire covered sparsely with weeds that is in the water will
make the boat more difficult to handle and will create extra work for the
oarsman when movement by current must be augmented by elbow grease.
A floating jump-shoot is best with two hunters--one behind the screen
ready to shoot at all times, the other handling the oars with shotgun ready,
but pointed safely away from all parts of the boat and it occupants. Although
the oarsman will get plenty of shots, he must be ultra safe. A third party
to such a venture can turn the hunt into a crowd, a dangerous crowd, whether
it is in a boat or a duck blind.
Central and southern Indiana streams and rivers are better for floating
jump-shoots than are their northern cousins. Central and southern streams
and rivers meander more. This creates better hunting conditions because
the hunter will be able to get closer to the birds--often point-blank--before
being detected. When hunters miss jumping ducks, the reason for the misses
most often is lead, which most of the time is totally unnecessary. Shoot
the bird, not the air.
I am not the best wing shooter in the world--or even Hamilton County--but
many years of bird (quail) hunting taught me that inside 20 yards the place
to aim at a duck (even a rising duck) is the head. The same rule holds
true if the bird is going away on the level, even at an angle. Shoot the
Pass shooting is another thing.
There is, of course, a fine art in getting within shooting range of
ducks on rivers and streams. It may be next to impossible when rivers and
streams are at normal levels.
But even at normal water levels
(or slightly above, as they are now), ducks have a tendency to use driftwood
and other obstructions for cover. Sneak such cover with extra caution.
If streams and rivers are at flood stage, the water will have inundated
weeds and brush high above normal water levels and ducks love the safety
such cover offers. In times of flooding, keep your ears turned on and your
eyes focused on adjacent harvested corn and soybean fields. They are smorgasbords
Entrances of smaller streams and ditches, oxbows, and other adjacent
open water are natural resting places for ducks. In some cases it may be
necessary to beach the boat and hunt these placed by stealth on foot. This,
incidentally, will rejuvenate a cold body on a raw winter day, but bagging
and getting squirrels will achieve the same goal.
Wearing apparel should be in layers so it can be added or taken off
as needs arise. Knee or hip boots are a must for getting in and out of
the boat and wearable life preservers are a must. Waterfowl hunters are
exempt from the blaze orange requirement, but squirrel hunters (from November
8 through January 31) must meet this requirement. It also is unlawful to
have lead shot in possession while hunting waterfowl.
So what are the best streams and river or a floating jump-shoot?
The west fork of White River between Martinsville and its confluence
with the east fork of White River (at the southeast corner of Knox
County) is head and shoulders above all other in Indiana. The east fork
of the White between Seymour and its confluence with the west fork is good,
but there is not as much of it. After that waterfowlers must live by the
unwritten law that ducks (like bass and other wild critters) are where
you find them.
Oh, Yes! Another thing I should emphasize is that every boat should
have a small bag--six to 10--dabbler decoys. If you find a lot of ducks
at a good spot, this is a great place to put out the blocks and have lunch.
Big concentrations of ducks at a given spot is a clear-cut indication
that they like it there. Chances are they--or some of their brethren--will
be there soon . . . maybe before your peanut butter sandwich is gone.
on number to view photo.)
-- If cold weather ices up standing waters, ducks move to open water on
White River. These are mallards and blacks.
-- Bayou Bill takes his turn behind the screen on White River's west fork.
Note screen made of chicken wire and weeds.
-- If a squeaky orelock tells the duck you are coming, a wet piece of burlap
will silence it. In the absence of burlap, your shirt tail will work.
-- Driftwood offers good daytime resting spots for mallards on White River's