Perhaps you’ve grown tired of fighting crowds on public land. Those 4 a.m. races from the boat launch get old quick. Or maybe you’re just looking for your own piece of property you can manage properly. Regardless of your reasoning, you’ve made a big step toward deciding you want to purchase land of your own.
Buying waterfowl property can seem like a daunting task. Without knowing what you’re getting into, it certainly can be. But, we’re here to help guide you as you make the decision of what you want in a piece of hunting land.
Research Where You’ll be Hunting
Before you begin searching for property, determine which flyway you’ll be hunting. There are four major flyways in the United States: Pacific, Central, Mississippi and Atlantic. Not every waterfowl species frequents every flyway. For instance, snow geese can be found mainly in the Mississippi and Central flyways, meaning you’ll have the opportunity to partake in spring conservation hunts. That can extend your waterfowl hunting season, but only if you have agricultural habitat suitable for snow geese. Deciding on your preferred quarry will factor into the your decision of which type of property to buy.
Decide on Habitat Type
There are several habitat options for a duck hunter: timber, agricultural, coastal, river or lake. Each type of habitat is better suited for specific ducks and will depend on the flyaway you’re hunting. You won’t kill any Canada geese in flooded timber, but you’ll likely have your fill of mallards and wood ducks.
Once you’ve nailed down which type of ducks you’re interested in hunting, you can limit your search to habitat types. If you’re more interested in harvesting dabbling ducks, stick to coastal marshes, rivers, agricultural property and timber. For freshwater divers, look for land adjoining large lakes. Sea ducks obviously can be found in coastal zones. Geese frequent agricultural areas, but can also be hunted in lakes and rivers.
Get Information on Surrounding Property
Do the adjoining landowners hunt? If they do, ask them how they do. They’ll be able to provide valuable information on what to expect.
If a large portion of your neighbors are hunters, this can mean birds in your area will be pressured. That’s not ideal, but is typical in areas with high numbers of duck clubs. You’ll still be able to kill waterfowl when fronts push in new birds. However, they’ll get educated quickly after getting shot at a few times.
Conversely, find out if there are wildlife management areas or wildlife refuges with ample wetlands nearby. These areas harbor large amounts of ducks. On weekends when public land hunters join the madness, those ducks will be looking for low-pressure areas to feed. They’ll commonly fly to nearby properties - good news for you.
Identify Ample Food Sources
You can have the duckiest looking land in the world, but if there’s no food, the waterfowl won’t show up. Multiple sources of food not only attract ducks in the winter, but keep them there for days and weeks at a time. As long as the water doesn’t freeze up and food is available, the birds will be content. By simply planting a few crops near an area holding water, you can have a popular good duck hole.
If you’re looking to buy arable land, consider how you’ll get crops on it in time for hunting season. You can plant row crops, such as corn, but most people don’t have the time or resources to do so. Leasing to a farmer is an option that provides you with crops and some extra cash.
If you’ll be hunting natural food sources, ensure the property has plenty for the ducks to choose from. In timber, you’ll want hardwoods that produce acorns. Puddle ducks routinely feed on duck potato, smartweed and wild rice. Sago pondweed is a favorite of puddle ducks and geese. Divers, on the other hand, will feed on crustaceans and fish, as well as submerged aquatic vegetation like wild celery.
Consider Any Renovations
You’ll want to consider how much work is needed before hunting season arrives. While some hunting properties are turnkey, many are not. Anticipate doing, at minimum, maintenance work during the summer and fall to prepare for the opener. If there are pumps and levees, ensure they’re in good working order. Consider how many blinds you’ll need to build and how much, if any, land you’ll need to plant.
And finally, decide if you want a structure on the property or are content with a camper. There are several inexpensive cabin options that you can erect in a matter of weeks. If there is an existing cabin, inspect it and assess how much work, if any, you’ll need to do on it.
The added perk to buying waterfowl property is you’ll often have the chance to do some deer and small game hunting, too. Plus, buying land is a smart investment for you and your family’s future. With your own slice of waterfowl property, those 4 a.m. frenzies at the boat launch will seem like ancient history.