"Bayou Bill" Scifres
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Puddle Duck Hunters Need Rain
Copyright © 2007 by Bill Scifres

Would-be Hoosier teal and Canada goose hunters are running smack-dab into some dry days, both literally and figuratively. But there may be help on the way if weather people know of which they speak.

The state is pretty dry right now, but some rain is expected in the last part of this week. Those who hunt teal can only hope that there will be enough rain to leave some pools of standing water in low-lying areas.

If you plan on trying your luck on the surface waters that are with us most of the year--the farm ponds and small watershed lakes--consider foremost those that are open. Teal like open waters that are shallow. They get this preference naturally--they are puddle ducks, or dabblers.

In a telephone check today (September 3, 2007) Rex Watters, wildlife biologist at Monroe Reservoir, says there are only about 100 blue and green-wings on the Monroe waterfowl complex, but a few are being taken. Rex also says there are about 300 Canada honkers there, mostly all of resident flocks. But they eat just as well as the flight birds that will be along later. Blue and green-wings are early migrators.

The hunting spots on the flats at Crooked Creek Area are offering some gunning, but the reservoir is two feet low at this juncture and it is impossible to launch a boat there. However, by mucking it a hunter can find a place the tealy birds are using. The same is pretty much the deal in the North Fork areas, too. 

Frankly, I have always had most of my success with teal hunting and hunting resident Canada Geese on surface waters that come with good rains. Such areas donít last long--they dry up quickly when the rain stops--but both teal and Canadas make hay while they remain flooded.

One time, for example, I chanced to drive past a small flooded field and the teal were having a ball there. Teal have an inbred love for mud.

Later that same day I secured permission to hunt the field if I would treat the soybeans gingerly, and was ensconced in the south brushy fencerow before daylight the next morning for a limit bag of four blue wings. The second day I did an instant replay and thought this was next door to heaven. But on the third day it was bone dry. Note: No need to look for the spot. I have watched it for nearly 20 years and have never found it right again.

A hunter who does his homework can do roughly the same thing with resident flocks of geese, but water is not essential. Resident Canadas seem to smell fresh-cut silage fields from miles away and often flock to them to feed. A walk through a silage field will tell you exactly the spot Canadas are using by the lost feathers and droppings. Most of the time they will be found on a slight rise (hill) in the field, but look anywhere the silage chopper spills grain and you see good signs.

It would be nice (for the sake of hiding in a brushy fence row to dry gulch the buggers), but they are wary critters and feed most often in the middle of fields.  Thus, if there are patches of green weeds nearby, I try to camouflage myself by laying flat on my back (cardboard strips are good if the ground is damp) and cover up with green plastic until the birds come. Daylight is good, late afternoon better.

Doves, too, are congregating more and the same silage fields will host them, Look especially for doves on a higher spot in the field, and you can hide in the fencerows for them. They use brushy, wooded fencerows for resting spots, especially trees bare of foliage. Doves also burn off easily.

All columns, essays, and photos are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the author.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Bill Scifres, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

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