There are mainly 3 methods of duck hunting without decoys: jump shooting, flyby shooting, and drift shooting. These 3 methods do not require any calling or decoys and pretty much rely on surprising the ducks.
Jump shooting is probably one of my favorite methods of duck hunting without decoys. I like this method because it’s more active and requires you to be on your A-game.
Jump shooting requires you to walk the bank of a river or lake and “jump” ducks. By quietly walking up on ducks, you can spook them into “jumping”. Once they take flight, they are fair game.
I find jump-shooting a lot more fun, but yet a lot more exciting than hunting over decoys. You’re not likely to get as many ducks jump shooting as you would over decoys, but it really will test your skills.
With decoys, you have ducks coming into you, and it’s hard for them to make a turn before you get a shot off.
With jump shooting, the ducks are heading away from you a lot faster because they don’t have to make a sudden flight after attempting to land.
One thing I like about jump shooting is it doesn’t have any time constraints.
You’ll find with other duck hunting methods, you’re constrained by the morning and evening flight, even if hunting over decoys. This is not the case with jump shooting; you can jump ducks at any time of the day.
Admittedly this is not something I do as much of as I should. I’ve done my fair share of Flyby shooting, but I was made aware of just how successful flyby shooting can be on a recent trip to Estonia.
These guys use flyby shooting as their only means of duck hunting and don’t even own a set of decoys or a dog.
The speed at which these birds came in was impressive, but even more impressive was the speed at which the Estonians shot them.
Flyby shooting is a method of hunting ducks as they fly from their nest to the feeding grounds and back; this will be early in the morning and late in the evening.
Flyby shooting requires some scouting beforehand, but once you find the flyway, the scouting is over as the ducks will always use this flyway.
Your next task is to set yourself up somewhere along that flyway; it should be an area of the flyway where the ducks are not so high.
On my trip to Estonia, we rowed out to an area of rocks on the Baltic Sea, the duck activity there was high, and they came in fast but low enough for us to shoot.
While you can use camo for pass shooting, it’s not entirely necessary as you do not try to bring in the birds; they are on their flight path and have one route in mind.
However, that’s not to say they can’t be spooked, but in Estonia, them guys went out in standard blue jeans and jumper and had their limit in a couple of hours.
Drift Hunting Ducks
Drift hunting for ducks is another great option for duck hunting for ducks without decoys and is somewhat similar to jump shooting but just on water.
Drift shooting ducks means floating down small waterways and spooking ducks before taking your shot. You can see how it resembles jump shooting.
However, there are some differences between drift hunting and jump shooting. The main difference is you can get to a lot more areas with ducks when drift shooting, but it requires some sort of water vessel.
I prefer using a canoe for drift hunting as it’s light, can reach a lot of difficult areas, and I can portage by myself.
However, drift hunting is usually best with two people; one person mans the vessel while the other shoots.
Still Hunting Without Decoys
This method isn’t in my top 3 methods of duck hunting, but it’s worth a mention.
I have successfully harvested ducks using this method, but if you really want a chance to be more successful, then the other methods are better.
Still, hunting without decoys is just what it says; you set up your blind and use calls just as you would with decoys.
I find this method works best in the early season when young ducks haven’t been exposed to so much.
Two things that are really important if using this method are that your camo needs to be on point and bring your A-game with your calling.
Once I have my blind set up and the flights start coming by, I start my calling, but I stop once I get the attention I’m looking for; the rest of it is pretty much hope that I can draw a few curious young birds in close enough to shoot.
It works best if you are in an area with a high concentration of ducks. I also find it works best on lone ducks that are looking to join up with the flock after getting spooked or separated.
Duck hunting without decoys certainly presents some challenges, but you do not need decoys to go duck hunting.
I find myself taking out the decoys less often and rather taking the dogs for a walk down the river or by the lake and doing a bit of jump shooting.
These methods of duck hunting are pretty minimalistic and don’t require much gear.