The Wood Duck’s Return, Part 3
Bob McNally 11.21.16
Despite their stealth and speed, wood ducks are very vocal, especially while sitting on the water. Their trademark squeal is easy to reproduce and often the first call young duck hunters can master. The calling serves to create a sense of confidence, rather than attract woodies from a great distance. You’re calling to let wood ducks know that they’ll be safe if they give your decoy spread a second look.
The “confidence” wood duck call is about as easy as they get. Squeal in sets of two, making a sound like, ooeeeeek, ooeeeek. Some hunters claim that this simple call will even entice ducks already on the water, bringing them within gun range.
Pass-shooting wood ducks leaving or going to a roosting site can be spectacular and a testament to a shotgunner’s skill. The birds will rip through the sky early and late, creating challenging shooting scenarios. However, care must be taken to hunt only during legal hours. Unfortunately for waterfowlers, the greatest numbers of wood ducks often are in the air when it’s illegal to shoot, especially in the evenings following sunset.
One good tactic for staying legal was taught to me by a Florida game warden many years ago. When he located a productive wood duck roost, he would only shoot it on a drab, overcast day.
Cloudy conditions keep the sky darker during the early hours of the day. This causes woodies to fly later in the morning, during legal shooting time. The same strategy works in the evening, except the birds fly back to roost earlier.
A bit of scouting to determine favorite haunts, followed by careful decoy placement and clever calling, will likely result in a good wood duck hunt. Beyond that, it will still take some nifty shotgunning to end up with a brace of birds. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that wood ducks happen to be among the best eating of all wild fowl.