Spring Time is the Right Time to Scout

I remember the days when I was first getting into waterfowl hunting. Scouting was hit and miss. We’d be out, driving around, hoping to find the birds we knew were in the area. I’m not going to lie, I quite often was a passenger in my buddy’s truck and there was more than one occasion I thought I was going to die as we slide around the corner of some dirt road at speeds meant for the race track, as we chased after a flock of geese. Scouting can be the most important part of hunting, and scouting locations early is not only a smart move, but also a good way to keep you on your game year round. Not to mention keeping your blood pressure lower. Weather-300x199 Your phone can be your best tool for scouting. Weather, GPS and a wealth of information is right there. These days, scouting has gone high tech. It seems every day there are new tools we never knew we needed before, but for some reason, now can’t live without. 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I, for one, am usually tied to my iPhone and use it constantly in the field, checking shooting hours, wind directions, etc. One thing to keep in mind is protecting your smartphone. I use the Lifeproof case. It is shock and water proof, which works well for waterfowl hunting. Having ruined an iPhone before, I can say they are worth every penny. They even have a foam Lifejacket option for boat hunters that will float the phone should it fall overboard. So cool. Just Google it Google Earth is a website that provides a wealth of information via updated satellite images for whatever area you enter. Every time I use it, I see something I didn’t see before. It allows you to look at the area at different times of day and year, as well as angle. The best part of this is getting to see those spots that aren’t always so easy to see from the ground. Take a lake that you’ve seen before, for example. Heck you may have even hunted there. One of the things you can learn from the Google Earth images is the shape of the lake from the birds-eye view. It may show you that you’re already in the best spot. There is the chance, though, that you’re missing out on spots on that lake that will serve you better. I recently saw on one lake that I hunted many times, that there is a natural funnel to a group of neighboring ponds I wasn’t entirely aware of. Now I know where the birds are going after being hunted, or if the weather is too bad on the main lake. 2006_0115Image0076-300x225 Spring is a great time to get a jump on finding birds. The Google Earth images can also show you wildlife management area boundaries, edges of preserves, and public land that hasn’t been updated in some publications. The images are renewed periodically and offer quite a bit of detail. I use two GPS units too. One is a handheld unit, a Magellan Explorist 710, and the other is a Garmin Nuvi automotive unit for the vehicle. The reason behind the car unit is simple. It gives those turn-by-turn directions and gives me one less thing to think about when I’m navigating my way back to a field in the pitch black of early morning, coffee-pounding, pre-hunt travels. The Garmin is accurate enough that I don’t have to worry, and when I’m trying to remember if I brought everything, one less thing to worry about is pretty darn nice. GPS-300x199I use the handheld unit for mapping out a field. I used to hunt Wisconsin in a lot of big cornfields. We used the GPS to mark where we had seen birds. We noticed that returning birds seldom hit the exact same spot in a cut corn or wheat field the next day. Having the GPS let us set the decoys in confidence that we’re in an area that will see traffic. And we can adjust for the weather that we got off our smartphones. It’s all part of hunting smarter, and harder. Hunting hard is part of the fun. It might not be easy, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take advantage of the tools to make it better. hh-final1 Hen houses are easy to build and a great way to help the ducks!As many of the Hard Core pro staff knows, spring is a good time to get out and set up wood duck nesting boxes and other habitat projects. Delta Waterfowl also has plans available for hen houses for other ducks too. You can check resident bird populations and see where they are nesting in the spring to get a good idea of what the local populations will look like in the fall. It is also a great way to find a spring turkey spot, and who doesn’t like dropping a thunder chicken when the opportunity arises? Know your farmers… Of course, you don’t want to bother a farmer when he’s busy planting or working fields, but if you get those few moments when a farmer isn’t busy, he can be a great source of not only information, but also a great opportunity to get permission to Artist isn't. 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I’ll fill you in on my personal secret weapon when it comes to getting permission; I have my wife ask. Sounds cheesy, I know, but she has yet to get turned down. It helps for her to take one of the kids too. Cheating? Maybe, but all’s fair in love and hunting. Besides, my wife loves to hunt as much as I do and I take her and the kids with me when I hunt. The family the hunts and scouts together, well, you get the idea. Getting to know farmers is vitally important if you like to field hunt. I get a history of where birds land in what fields and discuss crop rotations with my farmers. I do this while offering to help out when and where I can. Sometimes this means a few days of helping around the farm, others may just appreciate the offer. I don’t mind as I grew up on the farm and know my way around a tractor. Spring scouting isn’t easy, but it pays off in the fall. Take your time and use the tools available to you. It’s also a good opportunity to work on conservation and habitat projects. By Derrek Sigler