Duck numbers along the Mississippi River Flyway have fluctuated both up and down throughout history.
Ducks along the flyway once darkened Mississippi’s skies. Mississippi was an important stopover for birds making their way south, and the cultivated rice fields and agricultural crops along the Mississippi River drew them by the thousands.
Along with land use changes, hunting pressure increased, and a number of factors, both here and up north, combined to spread out the duck numbers that migrated along the Flyway.
Contrary to what you might see on TV and hunting videos, successful duck hunting is more than just finding a body of water and throwing out some decoys. Today, consistently successful hunters spend a lot of time scouting ducks.
“Too many duck hunters think all it takes is to go out anywhere on the water, throw out a dozen decoys, call ’em in, and kill ’em,” said veteran Coahoma County waterfowler Ron Nelson. “Compare that to deer hunting, you don’t just go out in the woods, sit under any tree and shoot a nice buck. You have to put the time in scouting, knowing what the deer are doing, where they want to go, and why they go there. Likewise, you have to understand ducks.”
Continuing his comparison to deer, Nelson states that ducks also have favored feeding areas, resting areas, and travel corridors between the two. Combine that with the facts that a duck’s home range can be a thousand times larger than that of a deer, and that many of the ducks on the flyway are typically just passing through, and the job becomes that much harder.
“I figure I spend about twice as much time in the boat and in the truck scouting for ducks than I do actually hunting them,” he said. “If you’re going to kill ducks you’ve got to know what they’re eating and where they’re finding food.
“Past experience is a big help but you still have to get out in the boat with a pair of binoculars and actually see what food is out there, when the ducks are eating it, and where they go before and after they’re done feeding in order to know where to hunt them.”