Before the Hunt
When to Scout
It’s important to scout before your hunt so you can pattern waterfowl and have a better understanding of where they rest and feed. Waterfowl in Florida use a variety of habitats, depending on factors such as pressure, weather, breeding cycle and water level changes. For proper scouting, hunters should arrive at a waterbody at dawn and use binoculars to scan the area for ducks flying to feed. It is important to avoid disturbing the birds, so they will continue using the area.
What Habitat Types to Scout
If you cannot scout early in the morning, there are general plants and habitat types you can look for that ducks use.
The aquatic plant hydrilla is a significant factor affecting the distribution of ducks and coots in Florida. Hydrilla is an invasive exotic plant that impedes navigation and competes with native plants, but it is also a highly preferred duck food. It often grows to the surface of the water and forms large mats that attract ducks and other water birds. Environmental conditions and plant management may cause the amount of hydrilla to vary from year to year in lakes where it has become established, though lake managers take hunting season in to consideration when planning treatments. When a lake has large amounts of hydrilla growing to the surface, you can expect large numbers of birds, particularly ring-necked ducks and coots.
Other underwater plants that form large mats on the surface such as chara, Illinois pondweed, southern naiad and eelgrass also will attract waterfowl. Floating leaved plants, such as watershield, fragrant waterlily, Mexican waterlily and spatterdock provide good duck habitat as well.
It is important to find areas that provide a mix of open water and some combination of plants that:
- Grow underwater.
- Float at the surface.
- Extend above the surface.
These areas can provide cover for ducks and duck hunters. As you scout, it’s important to note whether ducks are using a particular habitat. Even though an area may look good, if ducks aren’t using it, you’ll want to keep looking until you find habitat they are using.
It’s a good idea to visit a shooting range to pattern your shotgun and practice your wingshooting. Try shooting skeet and sporting clays, which provide moving targets at multiple angles that simulate the flight path of waterfowl.