Once the frenetic pre-daybreak blitz of waterfowl activity has ended and the sun’s rays signal the start of a fitful armistice between duck hunters and birds, you’re left with two choices: strip off your coat to work on your last tan of the year or abandon the blind to find where those ducks are hiding and kick them up. The latter practice, called jump-shooting, can shake up those afternoon doldrums and put birds in your bag.
How to do it
Jump-shooting can be done on foot or by boat, depending on the terrain. Either way, you can leave behind the decoys and the dry box; jump-shooting is easier when traveling light. When jump-shooting on foot, the same rules apply as when stalking larger game: Stay silent, stay low, and move slowly. Use the terrain to your advantage, keeping ground cover between you and the birds as long as possible to conceal your approach. If coordinating a jump with other hunters, make sure everyone’s in position before emerging from concealment and flushing the birds. Set up blockers, if the terrain permits, so the escaping birds will fly toward someone in your party.
If jump-shooting by boat, it’s best done with a partner: Station one hunter in the bow, shotgun ready, the other hunter in the rear of the boat with a push pole, or, in deeper waters, a paddle. Moving quietly through the water on a stable craft enables hunters to get in close to where birds may have found a peaceful spot to hole up on the far side of a marsh or lake. If on a river, prepare for shots when turning blind corners and sharp bends. Make drives into backwaters to shake up ducks hiding out in these current-free offshoots.
Note: Check waterfowl hunting regulations in your state to ensure you’re able to legally shoot from a moving boat. Generally, as long as the boat isn’t being propelled by a motor at the time of firing, you’re in the clear.
You should wait until things have calmed down and birds have stopped flying to go jump-shooting. At that point, other hunters may even appreciate you doing the hard work to kick up birds at which they might get a shot. Still, try to avoid paddling or stalking through their stretch of shoreline and make sure you don’t wander onto private property.
When on a boat, be mindful of your shotgun muzzle in relation to your partner. Even safe shots can be deafening if taken while standing behind or beside your buddy.
Shooting from a boat can be a risky proposition; even experienced hunters can find themselves tipping overboard with the recoil of their gun or the jostling of their partner. Always wear a personal flotation device when on the water—even in the shallows.
Also, stay mindful of where you’re shooting. It’s easy to become focused on the birds and forget what lies beyond them, particularly with the constantly changing surroundings and more dynamic pace of jump-shooting. Think through your range of motion for safe shots before the birds start flying.