nce again we find ourselves at that stage of the evening where the appetizers are being served, and while they smell and taste better than you could have imagined, it does little to change the fact that you’re starving and at this point you’re not sure if you’ll make it until the main course. Dove season just hit the table and Early Teal is being carried out of the kitchen by the waiter as we speak, but November seems like it might as well be decades away. If you’re anything like me, grateful as you are for the respite from the hunger of the off season, nothing can sate your appetite quite like gadwall & greenheads, the bite of crisp air at your cheeks, and the sound of ice sluicing around your wader boots as you throw out your spread. While that may be true, you might as well do what you can to scratch the itch in another way.
ne of my favorite ways to satisfy my waterfowl desires this time of year is to take advantage of the early seasons to scout potential hunting spots, especially on public lands! This has become dually necessary this year with the record flooding here in Missouri. The majority of our family farm has spent much of the summer under ten feet of water, my typical public land spots are flooded out as well, and the water levels don’t seem to be in a hurry to return to normal.
hile tools like Google Maps & onX have revolutionized the way we scout, they are no substitute for putting the miles in and getting your eyes on the water or a potential hide. For example there’s a flat that I like to hunt quite a bit that sits at the confluence of a creek and a stream that I love to hunt. One foot of water can be the only difference in hunting shallow field, loaded with food, sitting in a tree line fully concealed OR sitting huddled under a makeshift pile of driftwood and scrub brush, 400 yards out on a mudflat, next to a a stream that could easily be confused with a guy standing up hill taking a leak. That’s a minor fluctuation with major impact on your hunting plans. Unless you’ve put eyes on it recently, there’s no telling what has happened in the last year and making that decision in the dark is never fun.
n addition to helping you game plan your hunt, scouting in the off, pre, and early seasons can serve double duty! I try to budget an extra hour or two to work the dog and let her play. While any water work is great, and I always cherish the chance to put in some time working her, I reckon it can’t hurt to give her a few extra looks at some of the actual locations I’ll be visiting over the next few months!
ere’s to feeling great about three a.m. wake up calls, bad gas station coffee, and schlepping decoys in the cold, predawn hours of November – knowing that we’ve put in the time to set ourselves up for success.