High-water ducks

NEW MADRID, Mo. — Water, water everywhere … and nobody to pull the plug.

That's the way it seemed here on a recent hunt with Christian Curtis of Sikeston, Mo.

He and partner Keith Allen run Allen-Curtis Wildfowl Adventures in a waterfowl-infested southeastern section of Missouri that can easily be flooded by the Mississippi River. Or at least it was on one recent outing there.

Big Muddy was on a rise, and a quick one at that.

Curtis, myself and several hunters rode to one of their duck blinds aboard an ATV. We had to leave in a johnboat powered by a 50-horsepower outboard.

But such is the nature of hunting so close to the vein of the largest migratory flyway in North America.

And they do call it waterfowling, right? You accept high-water times and hunt. What else can you do?

Well, you can also adapt and in a combined 40-plus years experience of hunting web-footed birds Curtis and Allen know how to do that.

In fact, here are some tips on hunting high water, be it the Mississippi or another river or creek in your own neck of the woods.

Dealing with high water can be overwhelming. However, during an overflow event you can experience unbelievable waterfowl hunting.

So take the good with the bad and make the most of it, said Curtis, who also is a duck-calling champ and manufacturer.

Here are few tips to consider:

  • Learn the river or lake stages: Knowing where the water will be at certain stages is imperative. By studying the water levels, over time you will know where ducks and geese usually go when the water reaches certain areas. I have found that, year in and year out, they go to the same areas when "new" water is available.

  • Plan ahead: As previously stated, watch the water. When an overflow is forecasted get a plan in order. Nothing is worse than waiting until the last minute to find out that your boat needs servicing and your boat blind is in shambles.

  • Scout: Spend plenty of time on the water. (At least high water does give you more mobility via your boat and motor.)

  • Prepare for the worst (or best): Set your equipment up for the deepest possible water. You don't want to have your decoys rigged for 6 feet of water and all of a sudden it goes to 10 feet. If you rig them for the deepest possible water, you won't have any problems.

  • Be safe: Although floodwater can offer the best waterfowling known to man, it can also be the most dangerous. Waterfowlers are notorious for putting four hunters, a dog and 10 dozen decoys in a 16-foot boat. Use two boats! This way you have one for the equipment and one to hunt out of. This also provides for a back up in the event of engine trouble.

  • Retrievers: Don't suddenly introduce your dog to high-water hunting … when it happens. Give your dog a fair shot! Take them out in your boat before the season.

    Let them make a few retrieves out of the boat blind before season. I've seen numerous people who hunt out of pits and stationary blinds all year try to take their 1-year-old Lab out in a boat on a hunt.

    Some of these dogs haven't even seen a boat before. This can be overwhelming and even deadly for a rookie dog. Be fair to them and introduce them to boats before the season starts.

    For more information on Allen-Curtis Wildfowl Adventures, visit www.wildfowladventures.com.

    Taylor Wilson is a free-lance writer and editor for Bill Dance Publishing in Brownsville, Tenn. He can be contacted at taylorwilson@billdancefishing.com.