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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So this morning I'm out and finally get a decent shot at a duck this season. Down it goes and hits the water with that reassuring FWOP sound. It landed about 5ft from where I was hoping it would go down (in the clear flowing water channel) and is inside the edge of a pretty vast Marshy Morass, but shouldn't be a big deal as I've pulled birds out of there before. I wait a bit to see if maybe it's crippled so I can finish it off if need be. But I can't see it all that good since it's in that dead vegetation that's on the surface of the water, but none-the-less I don't see any activity or even ripples coming from the spot (the water was mirror smooth today).

So elated with my first duck of the season and confident that it's down, I fetch my canoe from where it is stashed and go the 25yds to retrieve it. But when I get there, all I see are feathers (from the breast) on the water and no duck. It's a spot where there is that dead vegetation from this year on the surface and you can walk on the floating/submerged matt of old vegation about knee high in the water, but occasinally you punch through and find yourself waist/chest deep in muck. I figure maybe it submerged a bit upon impact and got caught on/under some vegetation so I start sifting through the Marsh reed by reed and lilly by lilly. I first do concentric circles out to about 10 yds... nothing. Then criss-cross the area in a grid fashion... nothing. Then expand out to likely hiding places near the impact area... nothing. I spent an hour and 45 minutes looking for this duck and come up completely dry (actually, at this point I'm pretty wet from reaching down into the march trying 'feel' for it).

This is my first non-retrieved duck and it is just the worst feeling. I guess I also get a bit mad when I think of all the birds I pass on (this week alone) because they are over tough cover. I suppose no matter how careful you are, it's bound to happen but leaving a hit duck out there just sucks.

I can honestly say it was a good shot opportunity and I did all I could to try and find it, but I still feel awful.

I'm curious to hear what the group's thoughts are on:
1) what happened to the duck?
2) tips on searching for downed birds?
3) at what point do you call it quits on the search?
 

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That was a great effort[up][up] Sorry you didn't come home with that duck. What size shot were you shooting? Steel shot is what it is. Powdered a mallard once at 20 yards 10 feet over the water and got a cloud of feathers but he get going. We couldn't believe it. Thirty mintes later we hear a quack, then another quack. He came walking back thru the woods trying to get back to water[hihi] He never made it. I have no explanation for you.
 

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I have seen 'em get taken by snapping turtles?
 

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Sounds like you did the best you could. Anyone hunting long enough will have the same experience. I think the hunting gods will reward your efforts in the future. Still sucks though.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks for the replies and support

Ray - I was using Black Cloud #4

Kal - Man, I wouldn't want to meet up with the snapping turtle that would take a sizeable duck like that. I'm pretty sure that it wasn't a turtle, as I probably would have run into him during the duck search.... and lost a finger to boot. It's funny though, as on my paddle in during the dark I was contemplating snapping things in the marsh. With the light mist on the surface of the water and it's being all quiet and eerie; I was thinking that if I was hunting in Louisiana I'd probably be ********** at that time. I lived down there for a short while, but I swear I don't know how those guys down there do it. Glad I live in cold NJ :)

A guy at work had a plausible if not likely possibility. My eyes were only off the spot for a short bit while getting the canoe, so he suggested maybe a raptor took it. I kind of doubt it, but I will say that there are more hawks, falcons, and turkey vultures patrolling where I hunt than just about any other kind of bird. And today there were three enourmous turkey vultures hanging around the area. Given the other recent thread of a gosshawk eating a duck... who knows?

I'm coming around to the death dive explanation. Even though I rooted around through the water weeds and muck it's pretty thick and it would have been easy for him to go down and get lost/stuck in it.
 

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Ducks are also very good at swimming under water. I have seen this many times they hit a small pond and creek, dive under and start swimming and could end up 20 or 30 yds...great effort but they can be sneak little bastards
 

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if you didnt watch him he may have either dove or even flown. had a buffy today that got hit folded up and was belly up. watched him for a few seconds then his head popped up so i shot him again. after i shot him (and the pattern completely covered him at 20 yards) got up and flew away. its unbelievable sometimes
 

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shot a duck one time that landed only 15 or 20 feet from me. Soon as he hit he went under water. Searched for that duck for awhile. then out of the corner of my eye I see a beak sticking out of the water,the duck is sumerged under the weeds with only his beak sticking out. Have also had a few woodies fall close to me and go under and never to be found.
 

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I have lost a woodduck also in the same way, Looked like a solid hit, heard the duck hit the water but could never find it. It happens dont beat yourself up.
 

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If it fell on the edge of a clear water channel that was flowing and it dove into that current it likely washed down stream a good ways before surfacing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Well, I've contemplated a dog and the suggestion has a lot a merit........ Wait a minute..........did my daughter tell you to write that. [spy]
 

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the only thing I do now different than you did is if I do not have my dog I go right after it. I have lost ducks to the death dive as some call it, most will swim away under water and come up at some other spot or go into a hole or lodge under a root. any more a bird in the hand is worth more than getting another shot at other birds just me I keep my eyes on the thing.
 

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like ******* said get after them asap, it def helps, i lose sleep over lost birds, and pride myself in chasing cripples and finding downed birds, theres an art to it for sure, i hunt some bigger water and chasing cripples on water is a tough game, if they get up on land its very hard on us humans, the dogs however have a much better time on land, every situation is unique ive spent over 45 mins chasing a crippled bird. Glad you gave it an honest effort but anyone who duck hunts a fair amount will have similar story about one that got away. Lost a black duck once i powdered less then 15 yards landed less then 10 yards from the blind, never surfaced never seen him so its not unheard of. only advice i have is in my experiences on big water, i try to push the duck (with the boat) toward shore because i know the dog will find him there, run up on him at a fair speed, as soon as it dives cut the motor note the way he is pointed they tend to keep swimming that direction, when you see the surface of the water disturb or his beak come up, WAIT!!!! stay low in the boat ready your gun and stay still, slowly the head will come up if not and he sees you and dives again wait dont shoot once you shoot they rarely give you another shot and will snorkel with only the tip of their beak out of the water, if you need to restart the motor do so and repeat you have to shut the motor off each time the duck is under water and dont shoot till you have the shot, if the bird surfaces very near the boat but you dont get the shot, dont start the motor just wait usually they only stay under about 15-30 seconds and will resurface in gun range but best of luck fellas! just my 2 cents
 

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You did the best you could do and that's the important part, this kind of thing happens quite a bit if you don't retrieve the ducks quickly, it sucks but its part of the hunt, good job trying to find the bird though [up]
 

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I give you a ton of credit for looking so diligently for the downed bird. I usually give it about 20 minutes before I give up.
As for where the duck could have gotten to,I have hit ducks, watched them fall and run and hide under brush, under weeds just to get away
 
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