Earplugs Equals No Ducks

This waterfowl season has been an interesting one to say the least. The weather starts helping and then it warms up and all the ducks you scouted and patterned move over night. The one thing that has consistently been fun is getting Kaela hunting. If you’ve been following along, you’ve seen her progress as she has joined me in this sport. Sadly, she had Carpal Tunnel surgery scheduled and I knew we had to get a hunt in before then. As of right now we only have one month left of waterfowl hunting, so my mind is starting to change directions and I want to try and get Kaela on at least one more big hunt. I also want to get her shooting her new shotgun, so this meant a hunt was on the horizon.

The night before I checked out the weather a bit and used the OnXhunt map’s weather feature to get an idea of what was going on precipitation wise as well as wind and temperature. I’ve liked using these features as part of my scouting. They have helped me try and predict what the weather would do to ducks and where I should go hunt. Having the elite plan, I can look at states north of us and use the weather feature to try and predict new flows of birds coming south. Using that feature like this has worked out well for us. The night before the hunt, there was some cloud cover and it was cool at night, not as cold as I would have hoped with this random warm up we got here in Utah. The day of, it was a solid 40 degrees Fahrenheit and I was not happy.

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The other thing I did the night before to get excited was listen to what’s become one of my favorite podcasts right now, The Gundog Notebook. This guy has been a great example to me of what we can accomplish, and his podcasts are great at giving me new ideas. He always features some great people on his podcast and there is a lot to learn from them. Even though his podcast features some dog training and a lot in the aspect of upland hunting, I still get quite a bit from it since we like to dabble with upland bird hunting too. It’s a good change from listening to music all the time. When the off-season hits, I plan on doing a post on the podcasts I listen to and the different aspects about them for those that are interested in finding something to listen to on their drive to work or on their way to a hunt. I’ve learned a lot from listening to podcasts and it has opened my horizons a bit more.

The day of the hunt came and since I hadn’t done any scouting, we decided to turn this into a scouting/ hunting trip. We slept in since there was no real reason to wake up super early, and Kaela had been working the night before, so it sounded like sleeping in was the way to go that morning. We loaded up in the truck and off we went. We dropped off the girls and then we went hunting. As we headed out the skies were clear, and it was warm, too warm for my liking. At this point in the season, I shouldn’t be bringing just a sweater to go hunting. This hunt, I decided that I wouldn’t bring my gun. I wanted Kaela to get on a bird and wanted to help her get on birds without me worrying about getting a shot off. We went to our first spot and if we saw ducks there, our chances would be good. Our first jump shoot had nothing in it. Which made me disappointed and took down a lot of my hopes for the day.

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The next spot was a spot a buddy of mine told me to check out. I had been there before on a solo hunt and I thought we had a good chance this day. Kaela and I started out by going to check out a pond that always stays clear despite the cold. He said that there must be a spring coming into it, but I think this day we found out why it stays clear. Right around there, there are a few bays that come in but most of them were frozen. We could see the ducks and as an extra treat, we saw a bald eagle perched on a rock. I always love it when the bald eagles make it down our way. The pond we hiked to didn’t have any ducks in it. It looks like a great spot if the ice was around more. We had some ice but not enough. We started hiking toward a second bay that had looked promising as we were driving through. On our way we saw some steam over some water. I thought it was interesting since it wasn’t super cold which meant the water would have to be warm. We walked up to it and touched the water and we found a hot spring right near that pond. I think we found the reason why that pond stays clear of ice year-round. We walked around that, and I told Kaela to be ready since there were a lot of signs of duck activity in the area. We moved on since it was just a small stream of water coming through.

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On our way to the next spot we saw more steam as we walked toward the next bay over. Kaela has a thing about wearing ear plugs. I always let her make her own decision as we hunt. I just try to give her suggestions and have that help her make her decisions. I have told her that while bird hunting, we don’t wear earplugs. We need to be able to hear a flush or a cackle, or in this case, a quack. As we moved towards this bay, and I saw the steam, I told Kaela to be ready for a flush of ducks as we got closer. She was wearing her earplugs on both ears as she hiked forward. She started hiking through some low reeds as I heard a loud quack. The kind of quack that I knew was a warning, “let’s get the heck out of here” quack. Four mallards flushed just 20 yards in front of Kaela. She managed to get a shot off but did not manage to drop a duck. I asked her if she heard that warning quack and she didn’t. I was a bit disappointed, but this is all part of learning.

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We tried sneaking up on some Coot so that we didn’t come home empty handed but that didn’t work out either. At the end, we didn’t bring home any ducks. We did learn more about the area and even tried to track down where the head of the hot springs were. We didn’t find it since it was in some tall cat tails. We hiked back to the truck and I marked the hot springs on my OnXHunt map.

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Even though we didn’t bring home any ducks, we still had fun and learned a lot together. Kaela decided that wearing one ear plug is probably enough. This way she can hear the warning signs of birds ready to take off. When we get into the coyotes, this will be a different story. Even though we’ve had a weird weather, weird pattern, season, we have had fun hunting together and growing together. At the end of the season, Kaela will be writing a post recapping the whole season.

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Lessons Learned:

  • One ear plug will suffice.
  • Marking terrain features for future hunts can really help.
  • When in doubt, get your waders out.
  • Be careful with ice. We had one inch thick ice that was not very strong.
  • Shouldering your shotgun might take some practice.
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4 thoughts on “Earplugs Equals No Ducks

  1. I’ve missed some birds because of ear plunge, too. But I’m an audio engineer by trade and can not afford the hearing loss from high sound pressure levels. I have worn the ear muffs that amplify low levels sounds and conversations and like those a lot, although I’m
    Not a fan of how bulky they are. I’m considering the in-ear versions.

    Nice blog!

    Like

    1. Thanks Brian. I’m in the process of researching different options for ear plugs and plan on publishing a post on that topic with what I find. When I do that I’ll keep you posted.

      Like

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