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6 Tips for Public Land Waterfowling Etiquette

Bob Humphrey

public land waterfowl hunting

Public land waterfowling can sometimes be a pleasure, other times a nightmare. Much of that depends on how you and other hunters behave. There's not much you can do about others, but if you follow a few guidelines of common sense and courtesy, your neighbors might be more inclined to do so as well. Then everyone can have a more pleasant experience.

Early Bird

The early bird gets the worm and the early hunter gets the duck, or at least the best duck blind. Some public hunting areas assign blinds on the day of the hunt and on a first-come, first-served basis. Others let the hunters sort it out amongst themselves, and the first arrivals get their pick. Arriving early also allows ample time to get your decoys out and get settled in before the birds start flying. Lastly, it's a matter of courtesy. If you arrive late, your morning hunt may already be blown. There's no point ruining the hunt for those who arrived early and are already set up.

Don't Crowd

If the area you hunt has assigned blinds, it's not an issue. If it doesn't, give other hunters plenty of room. If you're not sure how much is enough, imagine the roles are reversed and give those who arrived before you as much room as you would hope they'd give you. 

Don't Linger in the Decoys

duck decoys

Get them out and get settled. Recover ducks as quickly as possible. If you have to spend extra time chasing down cripples and you don't have a dog, wait until peak shooting time has passed so you don't spoil it for your neighbors.
Don't Sky-bust

Whether pass-shooting or hunting over decoys, take only shots that are within your effective range - something you should know in advance. Shooting at birds out of range increases the chances of crippling loss. It also spoils the experience for other hunters. The only competition should be between you and the birds. If the birds are out of range or obviously working someone else's spread, let them pass over.

Help Out

If a nearby hunter drops a bird near you, help them recover it.  If their boat motor breaks down, offer to tow them. 

Follow Ramp Etiquette

This may be the single greatest area for potential problems, most of which can be avoided by following a few simple guidelines. Don't prep on the ramp. Pull off to the side and prepare your boat first. And don't forget to put the plug in. Get your boat in and out, and out of the way of the next guy in line quickly. Don't rush; but don't dawdle. Help out. If you see someone struggling at the launch, offer to lend a hand.

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