Jumping Ducks

ducksAfter the morning flight or sometimes after getting off work, jump shooting ducks is the best game in town. In many situations such as farm ponds and high stream banks, walking within shotgun range of ducks isn’t particularly difficult. In other situations with less cover, sneaking up on ducks is a real challenge. My first experience with jump shooting seems like a world away. When I hunted Skagit flats in Washington state the birds weren’t flying, but there were buffleheads using a channel nearby with some frequency. The strategy was simple: when all the birds dove at the same time, we ran forward ten yards and stopped, waiting until every bird dove again and proceeding until we were within shooting range.

In high school we developed a regular jump shooting course that involved several farm ponds and a half mile of Champagne Creek. The creek was incredible. The first time we discovered the creek we were packing up decoys out on the river. We watched as a flock of twenty mallards fluttered down into the creek bed. It had been an unproductive day and we knew the creek had high banks. It took a couple tries but when we found the birds we were straight above them. Twenty feet above them to be exact. Andy killed two on the jump. As I recall I missed, although I soon made up for it, hitting the creek twice a week or so. Jump shooting Champagne Creek is the only place I have regularly gone one, two, three on mallards.

Coming over a high bank above puddle ducks in a small stream is a great advantage. The birds have to jump up and climb to escape. It’s high percentage shooting. The main trick is getting to the edge of the bank without being detected and right above the birds. A quick peak down the creek helps to pinpoint the birds, however you risk putting up birds every time you approach the sides. On long straight stretches and irrigation ditches, a pair of binoculars helps a lot. Look for ducks or ripples. Jump shooting is a great way to stretch your legs and walk the dog if you are lucky enough to live near a good stream, ponds or ditches.

One of the most classic hunts happened when I first took my son Joshua. Josh was three and a half and barely big enough to tag along in his yellow rubber boots. We would leave the dog and Josh back twenty or so yards and go jump the birds. The mallards were right where they should be and we ended up with six or seven birds in a matter of fifteen minutes. By the time we got home Josh had claimed all the birds for himself. He shot every one. Last year at an unnamed drainage ditch in Eastern Oregon I got to watch Josh, now 14, stalk and shoot gadwall and teal during youth weekend. It was my turn to stay back with the dog.