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Hunting and Capturing Puddle Ducks

Jan 3, 2008
Due to its broad distribution along boat coasts and throughout the inland lakes and marshes, the mallard or "greenhead" is the most sought after of our waterfowl. It is the prettiest in the minds of some, since it has been the most common subject of painters and wildlife artists. Mallard decorations and miniature decoys grace many a sportsman's library or den.

Only the shoveller and the woodduck vie for or possibly surpass his beauty. The drake has a blue-green iridescent head and neck, ringed at the base by a narrow white band. The blue-purple patch banded with white on the first section of the wing and his yellow legs mark him unmistakably. Many hunters call him "yellowlegs." The female is speckled with various shades of brown, but she also wears the blue-purple patches on the wings.

The mallard offers one of the best opportunities to break in on the study of waterfowl. You find them in most city parks the year round. You'll also find the domesticated variety on the farm. Commercial shooting preserves stock him for this type of pass shooting.

Many of the species do not migrate, preferring to stay in one place unless molested by predators, pollution, over-hunting or extremely bad weather. Since all ducks are migratory, numbers of mallards in company with black duck, widgeon, teal, pintail, and others, take off for the south for the winter and travel as far as Central America. In the spring they go as far north as Alaska and Newfoundland, following established migrating routes. These routes have been discovered by the extensive method of leg banding, a research that has been going on now for about fifty years.

The mallard, like all puddle ducks, rises quickly from the water in one frantic bound. It does not need to take off on a long runway of water as do its cousins, the diving ducks. While it rises off the water with a terrific flourish, it does not seem to be a fast flier in comparison with the teal, but does offer quite a sight to the naturalist or camera man and much more so to the gunner who tries to lead it correctly with the shotgun.

Mallards decoy readily to artificial replicas set out in the corner of a pond or near the rushes where they would come in to feed at dusk or dawn. One of the best ways to study these birds is to decoy them in this manner, having built a blind of natural grasses. Get to know a duck hunter and accompany him on his trip to the duck blind. Bring your camera along to record the birds as they bounce from the air, light on the water, or, sensing danger quickly change pace and direction to fly away almost before you have had the time to take your pictures.

Pass shooting, that is, lying in wait for the birds to pass a given location, is another way of shooting them with camera or gun. When their route is known from their lake site to their feeding site, the area in between makes a good position to wait for them to pass overhead.

Jump shooting can also be done by silently gliding in a canoe or row boat down a winding river where the ducks are known to live and feed. Coming upon them suddenly will offer ample opportunities to see them in action.

Mallards vary in weight from a pound to three or four pounds depending on the condition and location and are among the best of ducks as a table staple. As none of the puddle ducks eat fish, they do not have a fishy taste. Their diet is mostly roots and shoots of aquatic plants, grain, nuts and seeds. The mallard feeds by ducking his head underwater to grope for these aquatic plants and shoots of grass. On land, "Mr. Mallard" is fond of grains, particularly corn and rice.

Now you have these tips, you may enjoy the puddle duck on the table or through the camera.
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