Here at Duck Junkies, there is no off season. So why sit and sprout roots in your arm chair or couch after your season ends. Use the winter months to pre-scout some new hunting locations.
This winter over here in New England it's been one of the coldest and snowiest in years. With the cold temperatures, the lakes and ponds locked up early this season. With plenty of SAFE ice around, I like to take advantage of the accessibility of some of the area watersheds that offer hunting opportunities.
Safety is of course my first and foremost concern as it should be yours. As a waterfowl hunter, I always dress for the weather and let someone know where I'll be. If you do plan on trekking over any frozen body of water, be sure that the ice is safe. Stay away from inlets, outlets or moving water where the ice may be thinner. A good topographical map can provide you with this information. Another good reference is an Ice Fisherman. Since they're drilling holes through, they'll know how thick the ice is.
To find a location to scout, for private land I'll refer to topo maps and for public, the State Hunting Guide which usually lists public hunting areas, and the maps for any particular region. Here in Connecticut, the DEP website actually provides topo maps of each public area. You may be surprised to find many locations listed as public access that are overlooked by a majority of hunters due to either remote locations or just not a popular spot. I tend to look for small bodies of water or marshy areas that are within a few miles of a major waterway which waterfowl will tend to migrate down.
Now that you've chosen a location to scout, how are you getting in there? Here in the northern half of the lower 48, deep snow can be an issue. My favorite way is snowshoes. It may be a lot of work breaking a trail but it's well worth the effort and it keeps you in shape. Hunters that have access to snow machines may find that parking the sleds and getting out on a pair of snowshoes will give you a better perspective when scouting the areas. For the hunters down in the more temperate regions of the country that have open water year round, leave the boats with the mud motors and outboards home if you can, put a PFD on and paddle it. You'll be surprised on what details you might miss by just motoring around from spot to spot.
So what do you do when you get there? I like to walk the perimeter of the pond, lake or marsh and look for the areas which might hold waterfowl in the fall months. I'll mark these areas on a map or mark a waypoint on a GPS. I'll also make reference of possible blind locations for your fall setups. Mark your parking and access points on the map also. I like to re-visit these locations again in the spring and late summer and take notes of any nesting activity and bird numbers. Bring some good binoculars and a camera with you too. When I get back home I'll transfer all of my info on to and atlas like Delorme's Atlas and Gazetteer which is available for every state and sold in most book stores.
So why become a couch potato in the winter months? Get out, enjoy the outdoors and SCOUT!!!
By Terry Mahoney- CT Pro-Staff