Hunting in the Public Eye – D.W.

THE UNEXPECTED SWATCH of camouflage caught my eye, standing out as it did from its corrugated display board at the end of the salad dressing aisle in my neighborhood grocery store. The pitch, of course, was for “Duck Dynasty” schwag — T-shirts, DVDs, braided bracelets, beer coozies, iced-tea cups. You know the deal. Your non-duck hunting friends have asked you about it.

The astonishing, omnipresent popularity of “Duck Dynasty” has been a frequent topic of conversation within the waterfowl hunting community, normally a reserved, low-profile bunch who prefer the quiet of marshes to the bluster of red-carpet celebrity.

Duck hunters can be forgiven for uneasiness about the show’s treatment of duck hunting. Understandably, some hunters have voiced concerns about the trivialization of the duck hunting experience and its association with certain stereotypes. But with all due respect, this is nitpicking. We should be encouraged to see duck hunting gaining such attention, particularly associated with such a harmless brand.

By contrast, consider public campaigns attacking duck hunting. In 2001, the Humane Society of the United States funded a “study” that was used to mount a campaign against duck hunting patterned on similar campaigns that successfully curtailed duck hunting in some Australian states. With a relatively small constituency, duck hunting is seen amongst animal-rights advocates as a vulnerable activity amongst the spectrum of hunting and trapping activities.

The presentation of duck hunting in “Duck Dynasty” will not be to every duck hunter’s liking, but as an unintentional public relations campaign, it is pretty darned good.

Viewed through the shallow lens and short attention span of the mass media viewers, the reality show contains many of duck hunting’s most cogent sales pitches to the general public: food, family and friends. Duck hunting is presented as part of a lifestyle connecting the close-knit Robertson family to the woods. All are good messages to be associated with duck hunting.

Duck hunters who live and breathe duck hunting will wince at certain details of “Duck Dynasty,” but hard-core waterfowlers are not the intended audience. The portrayal of duck hunting to the general public as a quirky, but essentially harmless activity is not the image that duck hunters aspire to associate with their passion — perhaps it is a bit too reminiscent of Elmer Fudd chasing Daffy Duck. However, the “Duck Dynasty” image of duck hunters is certainly better than many of the alternatives. In recent debates on the abolition of the long-gun registry in Canada, duck hunters and farmers were the often-cited poster children symbolizing ordinary citizens who were inconvenienced or traumatized by gun control.

On the heels of the “Duck Dynasty” phenomenon comes the release of “Savannah,” a feature-length movie that portrays duck hunting in a manner evocative of the treatment of fly-fishing in “A River Runs Through It.” Duck hunters might frown on the romanticization of market hunting, but the general public will likely be more inclined to see a more simplistic portrayal of duck hunting as a colorful part of North American heritage. On the whole, the movie provides more positives for duck hunters.

All in all, these public depictions of duck hunting serve as an important reminder: Duck hunting ultimately depends on the tolerance of the middle majority of society who do not duck hunt, but who do vote on laws and regulations that govern duck hunters. The words used and the images shown about duck hunting to the larger community are important to foster that tolerance for duck hunting, even though they are often not the same words and images we favor within the duck hunting family.

Pass the iced tea, Uncle Si.

Original Article: http://www.deltawaterfowl.org/news/blogs.html/article/2013/12/11/hunting-in-the-public-eye

Hunters Affected by Shutdown

Many hunters along with duck hunters will see a direct impact from the Governement shutdown.   The shutdown forces all government and federal workers to go home without pay.  This also goes for USFWS workers who help provide hunting opportunities.

Across the nation, thousands of Federal public land areas will be closed prohibiting hunters from accessing.  Contact your State’s Wildlife Department before heading out to your spot.  To read more, click here:  http://www.doi.gov/shutdown/fy2014/upload/FWS-Fact-Sheet.pdf

Low Pressure Tactics for High Pressured Ducks

Submitted by: Michael Pendley

We’ve all been there. The scouting trip from the previous evening had pinpointed that perfect public land spot. The birds had poured in, the cover was thick enough to hide in and the wind was forecast to be perfect. Early the next morning you make the trek back to the spot, hopes high and spirits soaring with the promise of the high paced shooting to come. Then you see it, the tiny pinpoint beam of headlights in the distance that lets you know someone else had marked the spot as well. Or even worse, you get there and place your decoys, build your makeshift blind and hunker down to wait for shooting light only to watch someone come in and set up on top of you, ruining both your chances for a good hunt.

pond 2

Photo courtesy of B. Pendley

Or maybe you have had the spot mostly to yourself for a while now. Several good hunts have resulted and it has been a pretty spectacular season so far. But lately the ducks are shy, flaring farther and farther out and refusing to work. No amount of added decoys or pleading calls can coax the fowl into shooting range. It is clearly time to make a change.

pond ducks

Photo courtesy of B. Pendley

It’s time to make a move. Hang up the decoy bags and break out the maps. Downsizing the water you hunt and the equipment you use can be just the ticket this time of year. Follow these simple steps to get back on the ducks.

Internet scouting can work: No, I am not talking about scanning the forums for grip and grin photos of successful hunts then paylaking their spots. Instead, pull up your hunting area on Google Earth or Wikimapia.org. Can’t get good images of your spot? Pick up a good old fashioned topo map of the area. Think back to previous hunts and scouting trips in the area. What flight path did most of the birds use?  Check that area for smaller ponds and creeks away from the road. Keep an eye out for hardwood timber areas where beavers might have dammed a creek and flooded a section. Moving water can be particularly productive in the late season when standing water has locked up with ice.

Hang up the decoy bags: When you find a hot spot on small water, a half dozen decoys is more than enough spread to attract attention. To make up for the small number of decoys, run at least two of the six rigged as a jerk string. Ducks can pick up on the movement from remarkable distances as they fly over. Since you don’t need a lot of decoys, make the ones you do use the most lifelike available. As the birds make their fly overs, they will have time to check out each and every deke, make sure they pass inspection.

Leave the waders at home: I like a good pair of hip boots for small water hunting. To get away from high pressured public areas often requires one heck of a hike. Chest waders will wear you down in hurry. Most small waters are wade-able with hip or even knee boots. If you do find a deeper spot, pack your chest waders in a backpack and put them on when you get to your destination.

And keep the calls in your pocket: Well, not really, but tone your calling WAY down. High pressured birds have been hit with more highballs, feed chuckles and pleading comebacks than a contest judge in Stuttgart. Once the birds start to work, stick mainly with quiet chuckles and quacks. Throw in a drake call or two or mix things up with gadwall, pintail or wood duck calls to give the birds something they haven’t heard. When the birds are in range, take the shot. Wary birds over small water are hard to land. They might not make that extra pass either. Don’t pass a shot when you have it, you might not get another chance.

Next season, when the birds get shy and the crowds get thick, put these small water, low pressure tactics to work. The shooting might not be as hot and heavy as an open water blind with fresh birds, but it beats the heck out of sitting all day without picking up your gun.