Waterfowl hunting is the outdoor equivalent of chess. Luck plays only a very minor role in waterfowl hunting, and patience isn’t entirely helpful, either.
Success typically comes down to planning and execution. Ducks and geese are both highly mobile and incredibly wary. They often don’t show up where you want them to, and when they do show up they’re likely to use their aerial perspective and excellent vision to decipher your plans and then thwart them. A common refrain at the end of many duck and goose hunts goes like this, “Well, what we probably should have tried is…”
Thankfully, there’s hardly any limit to the amount of waterfowl opportunities that await an American hunter. There are literally dozens of duck and geese species nationwide, and you can hunt them in all fifty states. Most hunters will readily divide these disparate waterfowl species into three main categories, geese, puddle ducks, and diver ducks.
Each group has its most sought after species, their popularity having to do with abundance, quality of flesh, challenge of hunting, and physical beauty. Canada geese and snow geese are the most commonly hunted geese. Mallards, wood ducks, and teal are the most beloved puddle ducks; and scaup, greater and lesser, and canvasbacks are two of the most highly favored diver ducks.
Though virtually all waterfowl species have their own devotees and experts, it’s possible to understand the methodology of waterfowl hunting by looking at key species and then studying the tactics and strategies used to hunt each group.
A Note on Geese
Hunters are attracted to geese partly because of size, both the size of the birds themselves and also the size of their flocks. A big Canada weighs around 15 pounds, and to have a flock of a hundred of these birds swarming into your decoy spread while calling loudly enough to drown out shotgun fire is something that you will never forget even if you continue to hunt for another hundred years.
North American goose species include the Canada goose, snow goose, white-fronted goose, and brant, though the Canada and snow geese are the most commonly sought. Understanding these two goose species will allow you to successfully target all the others.