Duck season is one of the most popular times in the country. For many hunters, it marks the start of the hunting season, as it often starts in September or early October, giving hunters a chance to perfect their skills before deer season.
It can be easy to get excited about bagging ducks, but before you head out for the wetlands, make sure you are fully educated on the different types of ducks. Knowing which ones are in your area, and knowing how to identify them from afar, will help you become a better duck hunter.
Identifying male mallard ducks is easy, and this should be Duck 101 for every hunter. Look for the white ring around the neck, a clear mark that distinguishes the males from females and also makes them easy to spot from other species. If you can’t make out the ring, mallards also have a low wing beat that is very noticeable. The wing stroke takes place almost entirely below the shoulder.
A wigeon is slightly smaller than mallards, but from below, both sexes have a white belly surrounded by a brownish and grey chest with a longer, wedge-shaped tail. To identify the males from females, the most noticeable feature will be a distinct white patch on the top of the wings.
There are two kinds of scaup: greater and lesser. They are similar in size (we’ll let you guess which is larger) but generally congregate in different area. The greater scaup prefers saltwater while the lesser chooses fresh, but they can both be found in one flock. The white wing patches are often the best mark for picking out these ducks.
These are some of the most decorative ducks in North America, with a multi-colored bill and a green and white chest. These marks, however, can be tough to spot when the duck is overhead, so look for the broad wings and white stripe on the trailing edge. Another feature to look for is the squared-off tail.
Think “pin” and you can’t mistake the northern pintail. The name says it all, as the tail of these ducks slopes into a sharp point. Add in the narrow body and long necks and you have one of the most distinguishable ducks on the water and in the air.
These are one of the smallest of all ducks in North America; so identifying them should be relatively easy. They have short necks and short tails, and they often beat their wings much faster than other ducks. In bright sunlight, you should be able to make out the emerald-green patches on their wings, but the white breasts and lightly colored underwings are a clear indicator for the males.
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