Waterfowl Scouting: ‘Dog guy’ WDNR Warden Ben Mott offers tips for you to be successful!

An article from WWA’s Words From The Wardens.

This article originally appeared in Wisconsin Waterfowl Association’s August 2019 eNewsletter.

Photos and column by WDNR Conservation Warden Ben Mott

Well, the spring has come and gone. Nest boxes have been checked and, hopefully, successful. Now, we are in it – summertime.

Beaches, boats, fishing, and maybe a little trap shooting have been taking up our time. In the dog days of summer what else is there to do?

I can think of two things – dogs and scouting.

What would a dog-guy do if he didn’t at least throw out a subtle reminder there isn’t much time left before the season starts to get your dog (AND YOU) in shape and ready with those retrieving skills.

Here’s an important reminder:

  • Warden Ben Mott’s Toller, Pike, on a duck hunt in a flooded corn field.

    These skill drills are for both you and your dogs! Know your dog’s limits, take it slow, watch the weather (know the signs of heat exhaustion), and work consistently. Water work is a great way to keep cool and to get some work in for the upcoming season.

Now on to the task at hand: Scouting

It is hard to successfully hunt waterfowl if you don’t know where they are. What better thing to do when it’s too hot to do anything else than to go for a drive, boat ride, or canoe paddle to check out some waterfowl territory.

Where to start? Go old and remember: PERMISSION!

Go to old spots – start there and expand out. Check aerial photos and county GIS sites for landowner information. Remember: permission, permission, permission – a name and a hard copy or electronic phone book is a must.

The birds are getting big enough they are starting to fly. You’ll need to get up early and find roost sites now, so you know where to come back to as the season gets closer.

Knowing where birds roost will allow you to follow the flock even as their field or food sources change.

Warden Ben Mott, son Jake and Grizzly watch the scene for movement!

So much water makes scouting for new spots even more important

Water, water everywhere – we have so much water in most of the state at this point in the year that scouting is going to be more important than ever. There are so many places for ducks to go that our typical spots may not be their “go to” locations anymore.

What does that mean for us?

We need to put a little more work into finding the new places the ducks want to be.  It may mean changing up tactics, getting permission on properties we never thought we would need to hunt. It means getting out and putting on the miles before the season starts.

Watch those birds – did they go down in a creek on the back of the cornfield, or did they go into a newly created pond in the middle of the field due to high water? Sometimes you just have to walk through a 40-acre corn field to find out! Wait, did those wood ducks just drop into the middle of the woods over there? There hasn’t been water in there ever – until this year? I guess there is only one way to find out – get permission and go for a hike!

Stay safe as you prep

As always ,when you are out and about don’t forget boat safety, PFD’s, lights and everything else for safe navigation. Pre-season scouting trips are also a great way to make sure your equipment is ready to go. Nothing puts a damper on opening morning more than the boat not starting while there are four other boats waiting for you to launch!

There are so many things to see as the world wakes up each day, so get out there and enjoy a sunrise, a cup of coffee, and watch a few ducks or geese flying around. The work now could make your opening day!

If you have information regarding natural resource violations, you may confidentially report by calling or texting: VIOLATION HOTLINE: 1-800-TIP-WDNR or 1-800-847-9367. The hotline is in operation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Trained staff relay information to conservation wardens.