We recently had the opportunity to chat with Matt McCrory, a duck hunting fanatic and owner of Prairie Hunting Adventures in Southeast Missouri. We asked Matt about the challenges and excitement of waterfowl hunting in Missouri’s Bootheel. Here’s what Matt had to say.
Q: Matt, first tell us what you enjoy most about waterfowl hunting.
Matt: Waterfowl hunting is a social sport and I personally enjoy the fellowship as much as anything. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy killing full limits of mallards and watching the birds react to my calling. But nothing is better than being out in the field with family and friends. Those are the times that we will remember forever.
Q: What are some of the greatest challenges on these hunts?
Matt: We hunt flooded rice fields, so the biggest challenge we face is freeze up. When ice moves in around the decoys, it takes a lot of hard work from everyone in the field. Decoys have to be moved or picked up. Then, the ice needs to be broken up, usually by riding an ATV through the field. The wind will often help push the ice out. Otherwise, rakes may be used to push it out and open up a hole.
However, all of this hard work will pay off as soon as the temperatures warm up above freezing. The ducks know as soon as it's warm enough to start thawing out, and you better be ready. It will be some of the best hunting of the year.
Q: What’s a common mistake that you see hunters make in the field?
Matt: It’s very important to be still and stay in the shadows. Everyone knows they need to be still, but it is hard for some guys to stick to it. It’s understandable. We all want to watch the show as the waterfowl are coming in.
Just remember, the ducks are coming to the calling and trying to make sure everything is safe before landing. So avoid moving your body or head as you’re looking. Just use your eyes to scan the sky and watch one bird.
Also, I’ve seen too few hunters utilize the shadows when hunting. If you are in the shadows, especially on a sunny day, you are better hidden from the eyes in the sky. It’s usually harder for the birds to spot the hunters in the shadows when the sun is shining.
Q: What’s another important tip to remember when hunting ducks?
Matt: When calling at large groups of ducks, particularly groups with 50 or more birds, it’s important to remember to pick out one lead duck. Watch that bird and call to its actions. Try to forget about the rest of the group.
When a small group is working the spread and deciding to land, it’s typical for another group to join them. We call this, “Ducks making ducks.” While you may have started calling to a group of 10, you could be calling to 50 before you know it. Then suddenly there might be 100 birds all flying in different directions. This is a fun sight to see but it can be confusing. That’s why it’s important to find the lead bird in a group and focus on getting that group close enough for a shot.
Q: Finally, tell us what the experience is like at Prairie Hunting Adventures.
Matt: Here at Prairie Hunting Adventures, we focus exclusively on the do-it-yourself hunter. We cater to hunters that know how to hunt ducks, and are looking to hunt excellent ground in a new setting. We supply the clients with some of the best decoys on the market and a 16-foot pit that is well camouflaged. We hunt flooded rice fields in the southeast Bootheel of Missouri, just a few miles from the Arkansas state line and the Mississippi River.
I think that our clients feel a great sense of accomplishment at the end of the day, knowing that they set the decoys, called the ducks, and called the shots. The success of the day is on their shoulders.
Thanks to Matt McCrory for taking the time to speak with us, and
share some of his waterfowl hunting tips.
For more information on Matt and his Missouri hunts,
please visit Prairie Hunting Adventures on Guidefitter.