Most people are content with hunting close to home. The comfort of knowing where you’re at all times, and being familiar with that specific farmer’s field or your favorite little section of the river. You can scout in the afternoon after work or the day before your hunt. Hunting close to home definitely has a lot of advantages.

Unfortunately, there are some disadvantages as well.

The weather, for example, could be too warm for the migration to start, or it could be too cold and push the birds out of the area.

(Canada’s on the homefront)

What if there’s a new species of duck you want to cross off your bucket list? You can always hope and pray that conditions will be ideal, and that exotic species will show up in your spread.

However, if you’re a realist, like most of us are, you are going to change what you can to give yourself the best opportunity to have that stellar hunt.

The obvious choice for chasing the migration would be to book a hunt with a reputable outfitter.

Your options are literally almost limitless with the number of outfitters and guides available. If you do decide to go this route, make sure you do your research. The last thing you want to have is a bad experience that leaves you wishing for a better outcome. The best way to know if you have a good guide is by talking with people that have used their services. A really good guide will have repeat customers that come back year after year, season after season.

The other option would be to do a freelance hunt. This direction can often take an obscene amount of research to be successful, especially if you have never been to the area you plan to hunt. That being said, it can also be an INCREDIBLY rewarding experience.

(View from Delevan NWR)

If you plan on going self-guided, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Where will I stay?
  • Is there a hotel in the area?
  • Can I camp somewhere?
  • Is there a hunter friendly AirBnB?
  • What kind of gear do I need to take?
  • Who is going on this trip with me?
  • Will I be good with a few bags of decoys and half a case of shells, or do I need to take the entire trailer loaded down with 50 dozen full body decoys and 6 cases of shells?

There are a ton of questions that you’ll have to be prepared for if you decide to go freelance hunting, but it’ll get easier every time you do it.

This year I decided that I needed to take the opportunity to hunt outside of Idaho. With the help of my Hunt Bums brothers, we got everything planned out. Of course, I had the advantage of hunting with Dru and Casey, who are both avid California waterfowl hunters. This is the best option hands down if you don’t plan on hunting with a guide. 

If you are not familiar with duck hunting in Northern California, you should definitely check it out.

Growing up in Idaho, we have ample amounts of opportunities to hunt ducks, but in my area, we are limited mainly to mallards, wigeon, and the occasional gadwall to name a few.

Northern California was an eye-opening experience for me. I saw every species you could run into in the Pacific Flyway. I had my eyes set on a few different bucket-list birds. Before you ask, yes, one of them indeed was a drake spoonie. Additionally, I was looking to get a shot at some redheads, canvasbacks, and pintails. All in all, I managed to check off two of my bucket-list birds, and both are currently sitting at the taxidermist shop right now. 

Even though I didn’t get all my target birds, the best experience from this trip was spending time hunting with friends. Was every day a lights-out hunt? Absolutely not. But having the opportunity to do something that I love, all while having a new experience made everything worthwhile.

Before leaving to head back home the gears were already turning in my head for making a few trips back to California (I can’t believe I’m saying this) next season to take advantage of the great opportunities to hunt again with great friends.

The memories made will last a lifetime, and when I look at those mounts I will be able to look back at the great times I had harvesting those birds. 

About The Author

Jason isn’t just a writer for Hunt Bums. He is also a safety trainer for the largest roofing distributor in the country, as well as owner/operator of Ackley Outdoors. Born and raised in the great state of Idaho he has plenty of opportunities to get out in the wild to enjoy hunting and fishing. His passion is hunting waterfowl, but he is no stranger to chasing deer, elk, turkey, or the occasional predator.

Jason resides in Nampa, ID with his wife, two children, and his Labrador Retriever Ackley.