“I don’t shoot divers” is perhaps one of the most common colloquialisms in the duck hunting world. My typical response to that is– “Good, that means more for me.”
To be fair, chasing weary corn-fed Mallards should have its place in every waterfowler’s heart, but if you are looking for fast-flying, dive-bombing action that culminates with somewhere between 0 and 1000 birds decoying gracefully into the spread, you should check out hunting divers.
Divers, as most folks who hunt ducks, could tell you, stand opposite the dabbling\puddle ducks. They include species like the Golden Eye (a/k/a Whistlers), Scaup (Bluebill, Blackhead, Broadbill), Ring-Neck Duck (Black-jack), Canvasback; and today’s feature the Redhead a/k/a Pochard.
Each of North America’s diving ducks is uniquely beautiful, but the Redhead stands in a category of its own. With a dark burnt-red head, starkly contrasting black neck, and elegant gray body, this species sits in a class rivaled only by the Canvasback.
More importantly, from the west coast of Florida to the Texas/Mexico border, these birds winter by the thousands. It is not uncommon to see “rafts” of redheads along the gulf coast pushing 10,000 birds.
As a target species, they are quite accommodating. They can generally be found in shallow coastal bays that provide shelter and ample food. While these birds can be weary late-season, they are generally prone to commit to a spread on the first pass, and can be hunted in any number of setups, from large spreads in layout boats, to just a couple dozen decoys hunted off of a bank or point.
Redhead hunting is a DIY dream. These fowl tend to move a little later in the morning than their dabbling partners and tend to fly all day, until the end of legal shooting hours. This provides ample time to scout, set-up, and shoot. Importantly, Redheads tend to follow patterns throughout any given day, so if you aren’t quite on the “X,” you’ll have plenty of time to relocate to a more profitable spot nearby. Typically, a hunting party can expect to see a number of flocks work through the area, with easy pickins on the singles and small groups that are searching for their fellow foul. If you’re going to target the larger groups, a big spread is required, as an old timer once told me for any given flock “you need more decoys than are in the flock flying, a large group won’t decoy into a smaller group.” While I’ve found this more of a suggestion than a rule, it does seem to generally hold true with Redheads. As an added bonus, Redhead hunting will typically yield other species throughout the day including bufflehead, scaup, and canvasback.
We recommend that when hunting a diver location for the first time, you make a day of it and bring a cooler full of drinks and food. Whether in a boat or hunting along a sandy spit, you will have plenty of time to sit back and enjoy a day on the water. Being able to spend a full day out will greatly increase your odds of limiting out on these beautiful trophy birds.
With planning for next season’s adventures just around the corner, take a look at some of our properties that offer great amenities and access to some of the world’s best Redhead and diver hunting!