Just mention the word to any waterfowler who’s been around the block a couple seasons, and you’ll get an instant reaction. “Been there, done that,” he’ll say. “Too crowded. And too many yahoos.” Chances are he’ll continue, “Won’t be doing that again.”
Any of you who have spent any time at all duck hunting on public land has had at least one bad experience. There are the guys who called non-stop, and not well at that. The skybusters, and the guys who believe in the Wall of Steel theory of shotgunning. And then there’s the wonderful gentleman who motors through your spread five minutes before shooting time, and begins setting up 50 yards, downwind. It’s enough to make the Pope get out from behind his blind and explain the situation in its entirety to this fellow hunter.
Public Waterfowling’s Ten Commandments
In our book, Successful Duck Hunting: A look into the heart of waterfowling, we built an entire chapter around the 10 commandments as they apply to duck hunting on public areas. And to be honest, I think they’re worth repeating here, not only as rules of conduct, but as guidelines that can both help you more effectively and efficiently hunt the nation’s public wetlands, as well as elevate your level of enjoyment about the experience as a whole.After all, isn’t that what it’s all about, enjoying ourselves?
I. Thou shalt not shoot another man’s swing. If your neighbor’s working a flock that passes over your blind within range, let them go. It is common courtesy, and you never know when that neighbor’s going to be built like Stone Cold Steve Austin and have a temper like Russell Crowe.
II. Thou shall allow ample space between thineself and others. This one’s simple. Unless you are both willing to partner up, give the next guy room and in most parts of the country, 50 yards is not enough room.
III. Thou shalt know the effective range of thine own fowling piece. They’re called skybusters, these pseudo-hunters who shoot at anything within eyesight, and they rank right up there with Osama Bin Laden.
IV. Thou shalt not blow a duck call non-stop, nor at every bird and beast. You paid $20 for it, but that doesn’t mean you have to get $20 out of it every time you go into the field, now does it? Remember the immortal words of legendary outdoor writer, Nash Buckingham, who said, “a duck call in the hands of the unskilled is conservation’s greatest asset.”
V. Thou shalt set up and tear down quickly and efficiently. In other words, don’t be puttering through the decoy spreads at five minutes ‘til shooting time nor lolly gagging in your blocks for a hour just because you have to be back to work at 9 a.m.
VI. Thou shalt not clean thine kill at the ramp nor parking lot. We as hunters need to realize that a lot of non-comsumptive users—birdwatchers, photographers, hikers, school groups—use our nation’s public areas and that the image we leave at the ramp or parking lot reflects directly on us as a whole.
VII. Thou shalt be familiar with and abide by the waterfowl regulations. Ignorance, says the wildlife officer, is no excuse; however, it can come with a hefty fine.
VIII. Thou shalt know the area boundaries, and though tempted, stay within them. This one is not only a public relations issue, but a legal one as well. If it’s posted Keep Out, well, keep out.
IX. Thou shalt leave thine temper at home. Do you really want to get into a shouting match with a complete stranger that you know damn well has a gun? Enough said.
X. Thou shalt work harder than most. No where in the world does the old adage “Hard work and perseverance will be rewarded” hold more true than in the realm of the public land waterfowler. Do your homework and go that extra two miles, and you just may have that mallard hole to yourself.