For diehard duck hunters, every hour of the season is an opportunity to fill a limit. However, too much pressure on the same flocks of wood ducks and other species can lead to zeros on successive hunts.
In October and November, the population of resident wood ducks and migratory ducks in local waters is still building, with waves of birds arriving routinely, sometimes every couple of weeks. Hunting pressure can have a major impact on migrations, especially early on when ducks are in a migratory mood.
Ducks have traveled hundreds of miles and are looking for a stable food source in a protected area so they can refuel and begin their wintering activities. When hunters find these new flocks of ducks, overhunting can lead to disaster.
Clark Purvis of Roanoke River Waterfowl in eastern North Carolina hunts the entire season, but he is very careful not to overhunt any of his prime duck habitats.
“We have great shooting in October and November, with a lot of ducks here, but hunting pressure makes them get gone,” he said. “Many ducks will leave quickly because of the shooting pressure, and then you have to wait on more ducks to come.”
Purvis only hunts three days a week, and each place he hunts only gets hunted once a week.
“If you want good duck hunting, you have to manage your duck properties properly. Ducks will leave because of food, water and pressure, and pressure is the most important,” he said.
Ducks can take a low level of pressure while heading to feeding areas, but their roost areas are a different story. While duck roosts are killer places to find ducks on a regular schedule, shooting ducks entering the roost site is an instant killer. Ducks will immediately leave and find another place to roost if they’re bothered heading for a good night’s sleep. Usually, when ducks go to roost, it is past shooting time unless skies are overcast or rainy.
Hunters can shoot ducks in transit between roost sites and feeding areas as long as they give allow for enough of a buffer between those places. To be safe, roost sites should be left alone. Shooting a roost is a quick way to send a flock of ducks packing.