You've already encountered these folks at crowded marshes everywhere
A hunting buddy of mine takes the George Carlin approach when categorizing other waterfowlers on public marshes. They're idiots or maniacs.
There might be some truth in that, but I prefer a broader view. In fact, I've identified seven categories into which public-water hunters often fit. Learning to identify these folks and their patterns of behavior can be critical to finding success at your local lake or wildlife area.
It doesn't seem to matter how much you shine your flashlight or bang the paddle on your skiff. Some guys set up 70 yards from you and think it's OK.
Years ago, a guy shoved into a rice pothole not 40 yards from a buddy and me. I stared angrily at him but couldn't figure something out. What's that orange thing? I asked. It's his face shining in the sun, my buddy replied.
So it goes. When this guy elbows his way into your zone of fire, calmly let him know that he can hunt anywhere he pleases on public property, but that it's not safe or ethical to be so close to another group.
Will it work? Probably not. Then, unfair as that is, it might be time for you to relocate.
The Boat-Landing Talker
He's friendly and curious. But he usually wants to look at your game strap and ask you where you were hunting. Chances are, too much information might turn him into a crowder the next day.
I'm happy to chat with any fellow hunter wherever I meet them. However, I don't give up too many details. Where was I hunting? Somewhere in the back of the marsh. How'd I do? Oh, fair.
If I get to know and trust the chatty hunter, I might eventually share more information and try to help him out. Maybe he'll become a friend, and he might reciprocate some day.
On His Way to Stuttgart
You've heard this dude from Minnesota down to Louisiana. He has a fancy duck call, see, and he darn sure knows how to use it. In fact, he'll hammer on that thing all day, whether ducks respond or not. If a goose appears on the horizon, it's time to break out the flute.
Hey, there's nothing wrong with calling at ducks, especially if you've practiced a lot. But nonstop wailing from legal shooting hours till nightfall accomplishes little. At some point, you'd think this guy would realize his approach isn't working.
Try to avoid this hunter if possible. But even if you're hundreds of yards away, you'll still hear him. Just try to tune him out and concentrate on your hunt. If you're in a good spot, gunshots might drown out his incessant hail-calling.
The Showman Shooter
This guy really likes opening weekend. He has a new semi-auto loaded with the hottest new long-range shells, so he's not afraid to reach out and touch ducks. Trouble is, he has no concept of effective range, and his 40-yard shots are often more like 70 — or farther.
Sadly, this guy usually hits quite a few ducks. Some drop dead, but many sail hundreds of yards away, chest-shot or crippled.
I have no problem telling this guy that his behavior has no place in the marsh. Everyone misjudges distance or cripples a bird now and then, but to do so repeatedly during a hunt is absolutely unacceptable. If he doesn't like me, good. Maybe he'll hunt somewhere else the next day.
You rarely see this hunter, and it's by design. He usually parks at a remote access or is on the water long before you arrive. If you see him at the landing, he's usually polite but terse. In short, he's figured out how to beat the crowds, find quality hunting and keep it to himself.
You should admire this guy. If you're polite and don't intrude, he might even give you some tips to be more like him. Just don't try to follow him or crowd his setup.
The Late-Coming Bumbler
Shooting opens in 20 minutes, yet a dude in a white rowboat is frantically searching for a place to set up. His dog keeps jumping into the water, and you can tell by his voice that he's frustrated.
Ideal behavior? No, but cut the guy some slack. Maybe he works long hours and can only hunt Saturday morning. And yes, he should have taken time to camouflage his rig and train his pooch, but family and domestic duties might have come first.
I never get too mad at this hunter. Maybe I'll offer him some friendly suggestions, but he probably already knows what I'll say. Hopefully, he'll be better prepared in the future.
This is the most common duck hunter you'll meet on public ground. He's really just like you — a regular guy who loves duck hunting and wants to enjoy the outdoors. If he seems a bit inexperienced or overanxious, just remember that you were probably like that at one time. In fact, you might help him out or invite him to hunt with you.
After all, public-land hunters are in it together, and we can always use more allies in our waterfowling pursuits.