Fishing & Hunting Tips

How to duck hunt without a dog

You are patiently waiting for hours, the moment has finally arrived, your finger slowly start to squeeze the trigger of your loaded Winchester, and down goes your prize, in the lake, or maybe in the forest bushes or in tall grasses, or perhaps into the rapid stream that has started to steer away your duck beyond retrieve. What if its a cold winter afternoon, and you are in no mood for a wet retrieval but oh no, you don’t have a dog. So, better get used to the idea of how to duck hunt without a dog every so often.

Yes, nowadays there are more hunters with a tight budget who can’t afford a well-trained hunting and retrieving dog. And there are those who think hunting with a dog, trained or untrained, will simply mess up the shot. So, it has become quite necessary for them to look for some alternative ways to cover the downed duck’s retrieval duty. With a wide variety of accuracy-enhancing kits for your guns, downing a duck has become a much easier task than before. But it’s not always possible to determine the exact location of the downed duck.

So, here we will try to find some other options and finally figure out, how to duck hunt without a dog.


Shallow Pond Hunter

It’s better to choose a shallow Pond for a dogless duck hunt. Just make sure to bring a quality set of waders with you. With waders, it will be easier to retrieve the downed duck.

Before you buy a set, make sure it is the perfect size for your body, most waders traditionally keeps you dry up to 3-4 feet of water. So, locate a pond that is less than 4 feet in depth, so you can retrieve your own duck.

Now, let’s be practical here, a pond with a similar water depth everywhere is quite rare. It could be more or less. If your duck has dropped on a deeper side of the pond, I suggest you find a tree branch and make sure that the wood can stay afloat with your body weight. Slowly steer towards your duck, use the branch like a life tube to avoid a cold bath.


Hunt with a boat

Let’s not struggle to stay afloat, just bring your boat. If you don’t have one use a rental. Now, the boat type will solely depend on the type of duck hunting you’re doing. The hunting place is also very important. As an example, if you are hunting near the shoreline and every time has to walk a couple of hundred yards wearing Waders to retrieve your duck, then better hop on a small jon boat to float and collect.

On the other hand, when hunting in the middle of a large lake or other forms of water, where you’re using your boat as a blind, in these sort of situations, just pull up your anchor and go to the duck, silently. Just use a better and bigger boat this time. Although it may not be easier to retrieve every time you nail a duck, without your dog, your options are limited.


Field Duck Hunting

This field duck hunting is a way that can be used when hunting ducks without dogs. Hunting ducks in a vast field have its satisfaction. I felt so excited when I went on to some of my duck hunting adventures in the field.

Most of my hunting saga took place at a corn, rice or wheat field. In this particular cornfield where I shot a duck, and yes I was dogless, went on to retrieve only to find out the property owner dog found it first. Luckily the owner was a chill dude and allowed me to hunt and collect my bounty on his property. So, if you accidentally find yourself in this sort of situation, act humble, and share some of your ducks. Who knows, you might make some great friends along the way.

But those who wouldn’t wanna go through with all these socializations, better pick an open place near a water source. If you are not sure where to look, use the ancient technique, ask the locals in case of hunting outside of your known areas.

Also, field duck hunting will allow you to apply other forms of hunting kits. So, dog or no dog, believe me, field hunting will take your hunting sensation to a whole new level.

Pick open spaces

Find an open space with less dense bushes and grass along with one or several shallows or walk-in marsh. Here even if your ducks fly far away, you have a really good chance to locate it before it burrows into any tules and cattails.

But if you yourself routinely hunt places with lots of thick tule beds, then not having a dog could be a complete disaster. In that case, better choose your shot wisely. Calculate your duck’s flight path and the probable descending angle after pulling the trigger. Just avoid downing your duck into thick tules, and you should be fine.


Decoy spreads

Dogless hunters can invest in some low-cost decoys. Well, of course, it won’t help you retrieve but the distance of a fallen duck can be determined with a well-placed decoy. So, instead of hunting over a large spread of actual decoys, just put a few in the right spot and let the dinner walk in.

In situations where ducks are plentiful and well spread out, and if there is no competition over feeding spots, regular size decoys will equal to rewards. Look, you are probably pissed at me by now, but believe me, I’m not trying put a strain on your wallet. So, instead of going for new decoys, why don’t drop by to some local garage sales. Yes, there a great deal of discount available on the web, but it can’t compete with the price tag that a garage sale can offer. Make sure that those decoys are in working or repairing conditions.

And don’t forget to pick up some heavy nylon line, brown or black, either color will do. You can do some rigging with the line and save some bucks in the process. Also, get some concrete or mold weight from melted scrap lead, then pour these in small paper cups, and make yourself a homemade anchor. See, not trying to stretch your wallet.

And then there are those dark plastic bottles. You can gather a few dozens of one gallon of milk jars. Dip these bottles in cold roofing pitch thinned with gasoline and then let them dry out. Then rig these juggs with line and anchors that you hopefully made by now, and scatter them among regular decoys in your large open water spread. This will immensely increase the size and visibility of your set up for a very little cost. The ducks would land right beside the jugs without suspecting the incoming fate.


Budget Blinds

Oh no no no, don’t leave this article, please. I’m not luring you to invest a small fortune for a comfortable duck blind. And I will certainly stop you from purchasing. Because no actual statistics show an improvement of hunting from duck blinds.

So, time to go medieval. Find a bush to huddle in, or camouflage your existence in the trees, or better, slouched in muddy fields or sandbars. The warrior mode in your heart will satisfy your belly at the dinner table.

With a little investment, hunters can manage to stay invisible before the prying eyes of ducks. Get a number of poles, a few camo netting, zip ties(plastic) and natural vegetation. Natural vegetation will provide the best of camouflage when it comes to staying hidden from circling ducks.

I will let you in on a blind that has the attention and appreciation of many modern hunters. I recently went on to build it myself in an abandon corn field in shin deep water. I planted four poles in each corner. Then attached 2 shooting rails, front, and back. Then stacked long bushy woods against the rails. Simple yet effective and economic idea that has saved a lot of dollars, time and of course some successful kill near the setup.

You can also give the layout blind a go. It’s an excellent budget blind for any kind of bird hunting. Just lean back into your layout set up, and wait, once you have the duck in your killzone, simply unpack yourself like a Christmas present and pull the trigger. Now the most flexible thing about owning a layout blind is its versatile usability. Open field, mudflats, sandbars and other spots where you can be sure of an easy retrieve. It’s one of the easiest ways to gain some experience on how to duck hunt without a dog.

But, if you are really down to be more natural, then use fallen branches and bushes to cover your body. With proper assembly, this sort of camouflage is really effective and budget friendly. On-site cattails, sawgrass, tree trunks, Willow trees and other natural vegetation will give you excellent concealment when it comes to avoiding detection by ducks. Don’t forget to cover your head along with your entire body. For some comfort, use marsh or shooting stool to give your lower back some relief.


Hire a guide?

Well, it’s not a bad idea. After all, if you decided to hunt in an unknown area, without your dog, I would suggest the sensible thing to do is hiring an expert local guide. Yes, some dollars will be lost but you can never put a price on experience and quality advice that will stay with you forever. He will guide you to hunt from a suitable spot, in a quality blind, and over a hunt-tested decoy spread. Once you learn a few pro strategies, you will find it easier to master the technique of how to duck hunt without dogs.


Effective strategy

Now, every task needs a good plan whether it’s for hunting or other simple or complex matter. So, better come up with a good hunting spot, quality blinders, and suitable time. Stay alert because you may not be the only hunter in the area. To avoid this kind of competition, a well-experienced guide will help you find a less populated place with plenty of ducks to choose from. Now to reach such a tranquil spot might require a lot of walking, but in the end, It will all be worth the effort.

Pretty sure that Your guide will also have some knowledge about frequently changing duck working spot due to weather and water conditions. After a heavy rain fresh flood water level elevates into the field or bottomland words could attract a large number of ducks. On the other hand, during a frozen winter, ducks will shift in rivers or in a large lake where water is still not all frozen solid. On a large open water, set up an upwind point at the front of a feeder creek where working ducks can see your decoys. I may over exaggerating at this point. There is no way to retrieve a duck in this situation without a dog. I would not recommend you to walk on a frozen lake and put your well being at risk. It’s so hard to differ the thin ice from thick ones. So, I think I laid out enough information and strategies.


There is nothing conclusive on how to duck hunt without a dog. Ducks behaviors and ever-changing habitats are so hard to presume. So, you will need to hope for some coincidence to give you some advantages. I wouldn’t recommend any rookie hunter to go near the jungle without a dog let alone retrieving a duck. A dog will detect any incoming threats that might put you in a harm’s way.

And no one can deny the unbreakable bond and intense feelings which a dog and a person share with each other. For most of the owners, a dog is like their family member. So, if you’re hunting without a dog and low on budget, there’s one last suggestion which I can point out. Get a good breed of puppy. Learn to connect with him. Work with a personal dog trainer to understand the psychology and strategy on how to train a dog. Yes, it might cost a few dollars, but the knowledge and experience you will gather, priceless.

And then you can train your own dog from scratch. Most hunters deliberately go on a dogless hunt for a number of reasons. Some dogs bays at incoming ducks. Other mauls the duck upon retrieving which is unacceptable. And some are over excited which gives out the hunters position.

Even with all these drawbacks, I would say to be patient, love and commit to them. A dog is like a new child learning to take the first step. So, be gentle, take heart to his every learning curb. Sure you can easily hunt without the help of man’s best friend, but come on, you’re missing out on all the fun. Get a good dog, and go on a great hunting adventure. To you all my friends, happy and safe hunting.



Nicholi Wyto

Hey I'm Nicholi Wyto is a professional sports fisherman and hunter, love to enjoy spending time in Michigan’s rugged northern forests. I love to explore my experience and help others who are interested in fishing and hunting.

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