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wild & free

how early is to early

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I'm new at this duck hunting thing and have a ton of stupid questions. The only reason I am realley doing this is because my son and his buddies think they have to hunt and fish for every thing there is a season for. I have the boat ready, the lab trained, read every magazine, new guns and every else I could think of. But the one thing I can't find ouy is how early do we go out on opening morning. We plan on hunting in a popular spot. We scouted the area and there are alot of ducks but how early do we go out before to many hunter take all the good spots. My son thinks we should camp out after the football game friday evening. Any one have a special time that is a good time?

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Here's an opening day strategy that works for me. I have property next to a popular WMA and tried hunting it for years on the opener and had to get up earlier and earlier each season to beet the rush until I wised up and watched where the ducks like to exit the slew when all the shooting starts. Now I wait at the landing and tell each hunter launching where the others are located. Then I walk to the pass shooting spot and pick off the ducks as they come off the pond.

I have a pic of me dropping a limit of green wing teal at my feet on a road between my land and the WMA. No boat, no decoys needed, Just a dog ready to retrieve and you don't even need to put on the waders.

This pattern works on many slews and is a good fall back if you are running late.

You can hunt the morning flury from the shore and then set up after the sun comes up. That way you can see where the other hunters are set up and spread out accordingly and you can also catch some of the ducks chased off other WMAs that are looking for a place to set down.

Nothing is better than getting to the best spot first and having your rig out with time to spare. That moment before first flight is my favorite in all of hunting and should be savored at least once each season.

Don't panic if buddies are running late or the alarm clock fails to go off, just have your spot scouted out the week before and you can get in on some of the best pass shootting of the year. Hans

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my opening day strategy is also going to be "hunt where they go, not where they are". i love going home for minnesota opener, but i find more and more the places i grew up hunting are just too overcrowded. last year i drove past 11 wma's or wpa's before 5 am on opening day. all had minimum 2 vehicles parked already. i ended up driving around till 7:30 in the morning before i found an isolated spot away from the other hunters. it took an extra 1/2 hour, but after the shooting started many birds found their way to where i was set up.

dont get frustrated by the opening weekend pressure; just take joy in the fact that you are out with family and friends and not sitting in some office while your kids are playing warcraft.

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How early you want to be there depends on how popular the lake is. I'm assuming it's a metro area lake. If it's really popular like North or Pelican then your son is correct and the only way you'll get a decent spot is to camp out. Of course no matter how early you get there and set up you're going to have to deal with everyone else that comes in after you and sets up too close to you anyways. That is the reality and the downer of opening day. It still won't stop me from going out though, I'm just going to put some miles on the truck and try to get away from the crowds.

The last two openers I hunted a smaller west metro lake that can comfortably support four hunting parties. Both years I got there around 4 am (not hard for me to do since I work til 3 and just drive strait there). First year I was the second truck at the access and got what I consider to be the best spot on the lake. Last year I was the fourth truck there and had to settle for my spot of last resort which actually ended up to be pretty decent. Both years, despite the fact that the access was full of trucks, a total of eight parties showed up, including a group of guys that walked in at 8:50 and pass shot between the best two spots on the lake (nothing wrong with pass shooting, except these guys were too close to both of use and made it impossible to decoy ducks).

This year I am seriously planning on going to my second choice lake at about 4am versus going to my first choice lake. My first choice lake is walk in and canoe access and will be loaded with ducks. I have never hunted it on opener but am sure it will be pretty popular with the hunters so I would want to be there early. The problem there is I want to be somewhat comfortable, maybe get a nap in, for the 5 hours before shooting time, and sitting in a canoe/weeds probably isn't going to cut it. That's where lake 2 comes in, I have a 14' boat that is set up for this type of scenario so I'll be able to take a nap and make a hot breakfast while waiting. Lake 2 isn't holding as many ducks as lake 1 but looks promising enough that I'm not worried about shooting any and I don't think I'll have to worry about getting crowded. Even if I don't shoot a limit on Saturday, I know I can hunt lake 1 Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.

I guess the moral of the story is, if you are hunting metro, and especially if it is a known popular spot get there early and consider going to an alternate spot, or at least have alternate locations that you can go to if you get to the access and it looks too crowded. In fact, if the spot you want to go to is a big lake, then look for a smaller lake with an access that will only hold a half dozen trucks or less. These lakes are overlooked by the big crowds and when the access fills up it tends to discourage more from trying to squeeze in, though like I said don't be surprised when they do. The big lakes become absolute zoos on opener and can make your first hunting experience a bad one. Even if you do have a bad opener, don't get discouraged, it gets a lot better.

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My son and I will be hunting on the river by Brainerd. We hunted this spot on the youth hunt two weeks ago and saw alot of ducks I know there will be others out there because we have talked to others but no one will give us a time. They jokingly say after we get our limit. This weekend is for me and my buddy to shoot and our sons are supposingly going to do all the work. (ya right)

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i'm one of the guys that loves to sleep out there. get back into town grab some food and head out for a great night. wake up around 1:00 eat a late night dinner on a small grill and lay there looking at the stars breathing in that nice crisp cool air nothing better than.

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If it's one spot you may want to stay out there. If there are two or three spots go out at 4:30 a.m.. It will be 37 degrees that night so only the hearty will be out and that might include me. If it's a known spot like a point or island expect high competition back bays get less generally speaking. On Wisconsin's opener all the spots were taken at 6 am so we watched the sunrise and saw ducks coming out of a pothole. We hunted it and shot a two man limit both days.The good spots only shot 0 or 1 according to the DNR guy. So waiting and watching can pay off. Good luck.

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Two years ago I went out at 2:30 AM to secure a spot right in the metro and was about the 5th truck there. We shot a bunch of ducks but it was a madhouse - so many guys nothing had time to decoy - least fun opener in 20 years. Good luck if you go out, but remember if its a popular spot you can expect there to be a bunch of guys so try not to get frustrated.

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we usually get out there at about 6am saturday morning which is 3 hours before shooting time and sometimes we still get there too late where our spots are already taken

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If you think 5 am is a good time.....show up at 4. I'd rather have to sit awhile and wait then show up and have to scramble to come up with another plan.

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I've slept overnight twice (later in the year). First time was a great shoot, second was a dud. Nothin flyin and I never did it again. If the birds are flyin, you can have luck just about anywhere.

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It's a nice situation for me. I live on a small private lake that is connected to a large resevoir which is probably the most popular duck hunting lake in the area. I get to sleep in, set up about 8:30 and wait for the zoo to shoot up the lake and send all the ducks my direction.

Not having to get up at 4 am sure is nice considering I just got home from work as I'm typing this at 2:45 am!

Good luck to everyone and be safe!!!

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friday night went out to the lake 10:30 and thier were already three rigs thier. could not believe it at first but then I thought thats me later in the season

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