Wood Ducks: Aerial Acrobats

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My dad used to tell me that Wood Ducks could fly through chicken wire and not lose a feather.  I used to think he was crazy, but for the most part it is true.  Wood Ducks inhabit remote backwaters such as creeks, streams and small rivers.  These are among the most beautiful waterfowl in America.  Their aerial acrobatics are on full display at daylight and right at sunset.  These amazing birds fly swiftly and twist and turn while making the squealing sound we all know that a Woodie is getting ready to sail by.

Wood ducks don’t behave like most other puddle ducks.  They will find areas to feed and loaf not far from where they roost and be content to sit there most of the day.  You won’t typically see woodies flying around all day and from feed to feed, like mallards.
We will go over a few things to help you understand these birds and how to kill more of them.

  • Think remote and hard to get to. For the most part woodies prefer small creeks and hard to get to areas that most people don’t consider “duck country”.  You will normally have to walk through timber, thickets and swamps to find these birds.
  • Look for areas with acorns, overhanging trees, and duckweed. Woodies love to eat all of these and will seek them out if possible.
  • They don’t circle. Woodies are notorious for just whizzing by at light speed well within range and you are thinking….did that just happen??  If a Woodie gets within range, you had better shoot now.  Don’t leave saying, I should’ve shot.  They rarely give you a 2nd chance, so if they present you a killing shot….take it.
  • If they are done flying, put your boots on the ground. Head to small creeks that are lined with oaks where you can sneak down and get close to the water without being detected.  Woodies like to hang out on sharp curves and switchbacks, so always check them first.  I try and listen for the ducks splashing the water or the ducks squealing and whistling.  I still love sneaking up on wood ducks and getting some jump shooting in when I can.  It is a great way to get kids into the sport as well.
  • Try a more open choke. Your typical shot will be up close and personal and on the fly, so you want a wider pattern if at all possible.  Few and far between will you want a full choke to target wood ducks.  They fly fast, really fast and you want as many advantages as possible.
  • Wood Duck Decoys. I am on the fence on this one.  Sometimes it seems to work and other times they could care less.  I don’t think Woodie decoys are going to hurt you, but I am not sure if you really need them either.  The same goes with a call in my opinion.  But, find out what works for you.
  • Be aware of bag limits. In my part of Texas the limit is 3 Wood Ducks of either sex.  So make sure you can identify the species of ducks that you are shooting at, or risk your wallet becoming slightly lighter!!

Another thing to remember is that wood ducks are the hardest puddle duck to clean by far if you are breasting them.  They are hard to lay open, but they are a great tasting duck and just the right size.  I know very few people who go out and specifically target wood ducks.  But, these amazing birds are fun to shoot and awesome to eat.

Go find you a small creek or river in your corner of Texas and see if you can’t find some woodies to shoot at and get ready for some fast flying shooting action.

Story by Shane Smith

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