Ducks can be divided into both types and species. The two types of game ducks are puddle and diving. Common sense should give you an idea the basic differences, but we’ll go ahead and fill in the blanks as well. Puddle ducks are more likely to hunt in smaller bodies of water. For this reason, they are relatively easy to hunt. Less equipment is needed to hunt on still water than on the waves of larger bodies of water. Puddle ducks are adept at walking and feeding on land. They feed using the unmistakable technique known as dabbling or tipping-up. Ducks stick their hind ends straight up in the air while their heads, necks, and entire front half are submerged. Most puddlers have a colored patch, known as a speculum, on their wings trailing edges. Puddle ducks have the ability to take flight quickly. They will jump straight up into the air with little warning or provocation.
The best way to hunt puddle ducks is with decoys, passshooting, and jump-shooting. The most recognizable and numerous of the puddle ducks are Mallards. The males of the species have blue-green colored feathers on their heads and blue and white stripes on their wings. Mallards are also very commonly seen with other puddle duck species. For this reason, mallard decoys will attract other ducks such as wood ducks and teals. Puddlers congregate in fairly loose groups, but they make up for less physical contact with each other by calling out regularly. They are vocal by nature and generally call and wait for a response before landing.
They can be fooled by a hunter who knows how to perform the right call, but are discriminating enough to listen closely. If you’re not confident in your calling skills, it might be better to stay silent and hope for the best. Puddlers are considered to be smarter than divers. They migrate earlier than their long bodied counterparts, which exposes them to more time avoiding hunters. Much like older game learns the tricks missed by young, puddlers see all hunters tricks several times before divers even start their migration. Duck calls are predictably specific for the different types of ducks. There are two calls for mallards.
The first is named standard or Reelfoot style. This is a very loud call but takes a great deal of skill and practice. The standard style is performed with a metal reed which curves upward at the tip. This style has a narrow range of tones. The second main style of mallard call is Arkansas style. These are performed with a straight plastic reed and do not travel as far as standard. Countless other calls are practiced by veteran hunters for different species of ducks.
Some calls work in some areas and not in others, so it is best to ask around and practice, practice, practice. Just don’t scare away someone else’s game while honing your skills. Diving ducks are adept at diving beneath the surface of the water to feed. Their feet are larger, which makes them better underwater swimmers. Diving ducks frequent larger bodies of water and don’t care to hunt on land. Their legs are located fairly far back on their bodies, making them awkward walkers. They need room to take flight and actually run atop the water to build up speed while flapping their wings until they take off. These ducks eat invertebrates and fish. As a result, you will that they have a stronger taste on your dinner table. In North America alone, there are 19 diving duck species to be hunted. A category within diving ducks is sea ducks. These birds can be found in coast areas and have amazing diving ability. Some species are said to be able to dive more than 200 meters into the ocean in order to eat fish, crustaceous, and even mollusks. Hunting diving ducks requires more equipment and longer shooting. Boats should be at least 16 to 18 feet in length with deep hulls. The larger crafts will make it possible to negotiate the rougher waters. Hunting divers is cold work. They migrate later in the season, which means colder weather for the hunter. Also, larger water bodies produce colder marine air winds which cut through hunter’s clothes and chill them to the bones. This is not the type of hunt to skimp on supplies. Buy good waterproof clothing including boots and gloves. Hunting dogs need to be hearty for this type of work as well. No hounds here, this is work for Labs, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, or other cold weather breeds.
You will be shooting at fast moving targets, if you take on diving ducks. Some of the birds will be traveling up to 75 mph, so hunters need to shoot ahead of their targets, and might even hit a trailer when aiming at a leader. The conventional hunting strategy for divers uses lots of decoys spread over a long distance. The ducks are persuaded to fly low over the decoys, providing the hunter with a target, before either elevating or dropping abruptly into the water. Divers are susceptible to decoys, but not likely to be