When you start looking to invest in hunting property, specifically for a duck club, what are some of the key property features you should focus on to create that prime waterfowl spot? Ducks are creatures of habit AND habitat! American Land Company has put together the following tips & questions to ask when searching for your next waterfowl property.
1. Water. This key ingredient is critical in most areas for successful duck hunting. Ducks like water. And you need to either have the ability to provide them with that water, or have some permanent water source on your land: i.e. a river, stream, lake etc. Most duck clubs get their water via pumping, either through a well or from a re-lift, or camelback type pump. If the land for sale that you are considering does not already have the means to get water, then you will need to budget for additional capital expenditures such as; drilling a well & installing a submersible pump; or purchasing a pto driven pump and either a tractor or power unit to run it. Either scenario will most likely run well into the tens of thousands of dollars.
2. Food. This is another obvious, yet critical ingredient for great duck hunting clubs. Most waterfowl hot spots already have food, because the land is either a working farm (or have well established food plots) or it’s a wetland or marsh. If this is a working farm, then who’s going to farm it? If the answer is NOT you, then you will need to talk to several farmers and figure out a way to rent it so that the farmer can make some money, and you can have some food left for the ducks. Interview several different farmers, ask for references and then talk to those land owners to see how their experience has been with any potential farmer. Make sure you get a signed lease if you’re renting the farming out to someone! I can tell you from experience, ducks LOVE corn and rice, so if those crops can be grown successfully in your area then by all means plant them. If the property is a wetland or marsh, then you can get with your local NRCS agent to help give you guidance on how to properly manage your wetland. They’re experts at this and they’re there to assist you.
3. Rest. This is a feature that is often times overlooked, yet it’s critical to good duck hunting. All waterfowl need a time and place to rest. Take a cue from the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission’s and the Missouri Department of Conservation’s waterfowl management practices, they both stop hunting at around noon on the majority of their respective public hunting areas. Yet these public hunting lands continue to offer some of the best duck hunting in the United States year in and year out, despite the fact that they’re also some of the hardest hunted. Why? Because they have rest areas, they stop hunting at mid day and they provide cover. As hard as this is for a lot of land owners to actually implement, it’s a must if you want to have consistently good duck club.
4. Cover. Waterfowl like to “feel” safe, and cover allows them that security. Examples of good cover are: standing corn or any uncut crop, uncut grass, cattails, willows, trees and brush, levees for wind breaks, etc. Cover can be harsh and impenetrable, like thick woods or a cattail marsh, or benign, like a levee for a wind break. But the bottom line here is, if you give the ducks some type of cover, they’re much more likely to use your property.
5. Pressure. Does the area get hunted heavily? Either from other hunting properties or public hunting areas? Regardless, this can be a catch 22 if the area receives a lot of hunting pressure. On the one hand, if it does get hunted heavily, there’s a reason: there’s a lot birds that use that area. That means this area is “IN THE FLYWAY”. That’s good! But on the other hand, that also means that you’re going to be facing pressured birds, which makes for some challenging hunts. As for me, I would rather the area be full of hunting clubs, because I know the ducks will be there when fall arrives and I can manage my property to make sure the birds use my place.
6. Size. This one is really up to you to decide, but obviously, the larger your property is, the harder, and more costly it will be to maintain. Think about who will be doing most of the leg work and how much help you can count on. I can assure you, properly maintaining and managing any hunting property, but especially a waterfowl hunting club, is A LOT OF BACK BREAKING WORK! So don’t bite off more than you can handle.
7. Capital Improvements. Are there levees already constructed? Are they in good shape? What about pipes and gates? Does the property come with equipment like tractors, pumps, boats, atv’s? How about blinds? These must all be considered when purchasing a potential duck hunting property. Remember, this is a labor intensive investment.
8. Utilities & Lodging. Does the property have electricity? What about water, either from a rural water supply or well? If it’s from a well you might consider getting it tested for water quality? Does the property have a place for lodging or to put a camper? How far are the nearest hotels? Again, these are important considerations. The last thing you’re going to want to do is drive an hour to a motel after working all day in the heat and water with the snakes and mosquitoes. If lodging isn’t present on the property, maybe there’s an old farm house nearby that you could rent? Or maybe there’s a farmer close by with water and electric that will let you hook up a camper?
One thing to be careful of is the “build it and they will come” theory. I am not saying it’s not possible with ducks, because it is–I’ve done it. But, if you’re going to go that route then make sure the property in question is in a flyway and has some sort of access to water. Those 2 ingredients are a must!
Another possibility is to enter into a hunting lease before you buy. See if you can lease the land in question for a season with the option of purchasing? Even if you have to pay a premium price for the lease, that’s a lot cheaper than finding out you’ve invested in a duck hunting club that the ducks won’t come to! Don’t be afraid to ask around–local diners, farmer’s co-op’s, tractor dealerships, sporting goods stores–all of these places can be a wealth of local knowledge.
If you’ve gone through your check list and everything pans out okay, then it’s time to pull the trigger (pun intended). Developing and maintaining your own duck hunting property is a very satisfying endeavor. It’s also a lot of work, and it takes a lot of money. But then, as my Dad is so fond of saying…”we’re making memories”!