Knock On Wood

by Phillip Gentry

Upstate Outdoors
November 07, 2019 - 10:43 am

With the first segment of the 2019 – 2020 waterfowl season opening soon (November 23 – November 30), many waterfowl hunters are getting ready to take to the local swamps, sloughs, ponds and other half water/half land venues to do some duck hunting.

One of the most common of the local duck species, especially during the early part of the season, are wood ducks. The Upstate of South Carolina is richly blessed with an abundance of wood ducks. The close relative of the harlequin duck can be found all across the state and are. consistently the number one bird in the bag in South Carolina.

Understanding seasonal wood duck migrations has provided more of a challenge to waterfowl managers than accounting for other migratory duck species. It is generally understood that wood ducks rear heavily in the northeastern United States and Canada but also show a strong tendency toward year round residency in some states along the Atlantic flyway.

Regardless of whether they're local birds or migrants, Upstate waterfowler Mike Davis hunts them the same way.

“People say that wood ducks won't decoy or respond to calls like other ducks,” he said. “I believe that's true to a certain extent. You won't see a flock of wood ducks circle four times while you keep calling them in closer and closer till finally they pitch in and land over your decoys. I think wood ducks know where they're going from the moment they leave the roost. And if you aren't in that spot, or at least real close, you won't kill them.”

Davis states that scouting is an integral component to hunting wood ducks. He's also not a fan of hunting one location more than once or twice a week. For this reason he likes to have a handful of areas that he'll visit a few days before the hunt to see if birds are present.

“Once you find a pocket they like, they'll come back to it so long as there's food, a place to rest and where they can stay hidden. Wood ducks are not open water ducks, they love seclusion.”

Once he’s decided on a location, Davis will put out 3 or 4 decoys on a jerk cord. He owns half dozen decoys that he’s had for years but rarely do all of them see action at once.

“They will land right beside you or within just a few yards if you’re in a tight space,” he said. “He’s not a major decoying duck but if he’s see motion and he decides to come in, he’ll come in.”

Because of the tight quarters of most of his wood duck holes, Davis tends to go with either an improved cylinder or modified choke for hunting woodies and likewise he keeps his shot size selections on the smaller – more pellet based end of the spectrum.

“In a swamp, creek or beaver pond I might use an improved cylinder where if I was hunting on the lake I’d go with a tighter choke,” he said.

Another important piece of gear for Davis is a T-pole or swamp seat. These are available commercially from places like Cabela’s or Mack’s Prarie Wings or a home-made version can be made using treated 2x4 wood. The idea is to have a highly portable place to sit that will work in a marshy environment.

“I don’t use a blind and there’s rarely a place for one,” he said. “The T-pole has a rope or strap that goes around it so you can carry it across your shoulder on your way back into the timber where they like to be. That’s why they call them wood ducks.”


Phillip Gentry is the host of “Upstate Outdoors,” broadcast from noon to 2 p.m. Saturdays on 106.3 WORD FM or online at

Comments ()