Webster's definition of science is: "The observation, identification, description, experimental investigation and theoretical explanation of natural phenomena."
What we know about ducks and duck hunting might be from science or it might be from common sense. The science of duck hunting says that gadwalls, teal, widgeon, shovelers, etc., migrate every fall to the coastal Louisiana marshes. It says that these ducks are equipped to survive and feed in certain types of aquatic habitats where they seek out shallow water bottoms filled with food sources such as submerged aquatic vegetation (SAVs) like widgeon grass, coontail and others. We also know that favorable emergent vegetation matures in the fall and the seeds fall into the mud providing additional foods.
We have been taught through the years a simple science: Find the food, find the ducks.
This past weekend, I was out doing my usual pre-season blind building. Like every season, there are a couple of blind sites that I automatically rebuild. These are the spots that are tried and true and guaranteed to produce consistently year after year. They are also spots that have other desirable characteristics like easy access, good cover, good wind alignment and positioning favorable to the sunrise etc., etc. Sometimes these spots go unnoticed for years. Sometimes these spots just don't have many birds in them, and you never give it a second thought. Then, for whatever reason, you try it and the ducks drop in all morning – and all season.
Last Friday was a different scene. I was cutting through a big, shallow section of marsh that had been broken into an endless number of small islands and clumps of marsh within miles of shallow flats. Not convenient at all. I'd been hunting parts of this area for the last three years in addition to my usual spots. Between two of my blinds, which are about 300 yards apart, there's a little path that I travel to get back and forth between them.
For the third year in a row, I jumped a wad of several hundred teal, grays, widgeon and other ducks from a small section along that path. For the third year in a row, I drove into the spot for a closer look.
I found the same thing as the two years before: a small, shallow, broken marsh area that looks the same as the other miles of marsh around it. I had passed it by in the past since it was more difficult to reach and smaller than I usually like to hunt.
The science of it would say that any of this marsh is good duck habitat. The common sense of it said: "I'm not going one more season without setting up in this spot. So I shoved a new 2-by-4 board down into the spot and left.
When I returned this weekend, the ducks were all over it again.
Can't explain it. The conditions look identical everywhere around it. Is there something different about that spot? I can't tell, and I've looked for three years. Maybe the water moves through that spot differently. Maybe the seeds float in and settle there. Who knows? If the water levels are good, I'll be there this weekend for the youth hunt. We'll see.
Definition of Common sense: "The ability to make sound judgments" (Webster's).