The only sounds I could hear were the gentle gurgle of my hunting partner
gently dipping the boat oars in the high, murky water of White River from
a crouched position on the back seat of our small boat, his shotgun resting
crosswise in his lap.
I was hunkered behind the crude screen of chicken wire and weeds on
the bow of the boat, peering intently through small opening in the weeds
The silence was broken by the tense, but inaudible whisper of my hunting
partner as our small boat skirted the inundated brush and weeds on the
And while I could not make out what he was telling me, I punched the
safety on my long-barreled Remington Model 1100, knowing that there soon
would be ducks in the air.
That assessment of the situation proved accurate, and in the next minute
or so shotguns barked, ducks jumped to flight and some fell back into the
flooded willow swale where they had been resting.
Although this scene unfolded several years ago, it was an unforgettable
experience, one that could play out again and again in the next few weeks
on the two forks of White River south of Indianapolis.
A floating jump shoot for ducks and/or geese on the east or west fork
of White River can be a very rewarding outdoor experience. Combine this
activity with small game hunting--especially squirrel--and you have the
prescription for a banner day outdoors.
A floating jump shoot is not easy and it is dangerous. But when the
two forks of White River are at flood stage, the southern half of Indiana
usually is hosting great numbers of ducks and geese. If smaller streams,
ponds and other surface waters are frozen, their chief sanctuary is the
banks of the White, infested with brush and weeds, and often bordered by
a smorgasbord in the endless fields of harvested corn.
Parlay the potential for a great waterfowl hunt with the excellent squirrel
habitat (riverbank squirrels live on field corn leftovers throughout the
winter) and you have the ingredients for an exciting hunt that makes your
game bag heavy.
The latest waterfowl survey conducted by the Division of Fish and Wildlife
last Wednesday (November 26) showed a meager 1,465 mallards (the bread-and-butter
duck for Hoosiers) on the 13 southern census areas. There were almost 7,000
on eight census areas of the north. But this imbalance of ducks in Hoosierland
can change overnight, especially if freezing nights come to the state and
We can never be sure that the ducks of the northern tier counties will
stop in the southern part of the state, but when the northland is hit by
a deep freeze the ducks vamoose. Whether the Northern Indiana birds merely
move to the south is a difficult question to answer, but ducks come to
the south from somewhere and floodwater on the White combines with ample
stores of corn to roll out the red carpet.
Old oxbows and other standing waters along the river offer daytime
resting areas and roosts, and these can be hunted on foot to warm the body
and stretch muscles.
With such places in mind, I like to carry a small bag of mallard decoys.
Although most of my success on a White River float comes on jump-shooting,
anytime I put ducks up without getting a shot, I am thinking of throwing
out the blocks and hiding in the brush to await their return.
In most cases when ducks are put up, they were there because they like
the surroundings. Give them some time and they probably will return.
Ducks also feed in favored flooded areas of cornfields adjacent to the
river. With this in mind, it is a good idea to beach the boat now and then
to check such spots. If such areas are not hosting birds at the time you
are there, birds that have fed there previously will have left their calling
cards in the form of feathers and/or droppings. Reading the signs is important
to a successful hunt, but it also must be said that these little stops
along the way must be regarded as down time on the float. The longer the
float, the less time you will have for stops.
It is not necessary to wear a clothing item of hunter orange when you
are jump-shooting ducks, but it is unlawful to hunt ducks with lead shot,
or even have loads of lead shot in your possession while hunting ducks.
Thus, squirrels taken on a duck float must be taken with steel shot, even
though the lighter pellets often tend to cripple--rather than kill--bushy
tails. Other federal and state regulations apply.
The ever-present danger factor of a floodwater float dictates a watchword
of caution. It is a good idea to develop a healthy respect for current
and to avoid floating into solid objects with the boat sideways. Strong
current against the side of a boat can capsize the boat. It also is a good
idea to have a change of clothing in a waterproof container, a second set
of oars or paddles, and dry matches for starting a fire of driftwood it
this becomes necessary. Every hunter should wear a life preserver when
in the boat.
am crouched behind the screen of weeds and brush, ready for action.
like brush at the edge of flooding rivers as resting places.
hunting partner sets decoys on a flooded island.
hunting partner and I simulate a shooting situation ... the oarsman (in
back of boat) shoots only when it is safe.