Hunt Early for Wood Ducks on the Eastern Plains
Wood ducks comprise a good percentage of a hunter’s bag limit during the early duck season along the South Platte and Arkansas rivers. You may have a tough time decoying these agile and wary fowl, but if you religiously hunt the river bottoms and surrounding ponds, it is likely you will get some pass-shooting opportunities based on good numbers of wood ducks inhabiting these areas.
Both river corridors are lined with mature cottonwoods. These older trees have a tendency to lose their branches, creating wonderful nesting habitat for the cavity-dwelling birds. In addition, landowners and duck clubs supplement wood duck nurseries in these areas with man-made nesting boxes, which have bolstered wood duck populations during the last 50 years.
Wood ducks are drawn to irrigation ditches and other secretive, little impoundments. The small bodies of water make jump-shooting these prized waterfowl a fun and productive strategy, and a great excuse to stretch your legs when activity over the duck blind tails off toward midday.
The 2013-14 Waterfowl season opens Oct. 12 in the northeast zone and Oct. 23 in the southeast zone of the Central Flyway portion of the state. The bag limit for wood ducks in both zones is 3 birds. Please see the 2013-14 waterfowl brochure for additional season dates and information.
Wood ducks tend to migrate earlier than other species. However, If you are looking for a trophy bird to have mounted, wait for one of the stragglers moving through Colorado in November. While there are fewer wood ducks this time of year, late-season birds will have more colorful plumage. Birds harvested earlier in the year make for excellent table fare.
If you go:
Neoprene waders can get warm during the early season. They are also uncomfortable for walking long distances along irrigation ditches or river bottoms. Hip boots or breathable fishing waders are a better choice for early season hunts and jump-shooting treks (just watch what terrain you tackle with breathable waders, as they are not as durable as neoprene).
Words to Google:
Ducks Unlimited 2013 Waterfowl Forecast
–Written by Tyler Baskfield.