Many duck hunters lay in wait with a bag of decoys and specially made duck calls to lure in the ducks to their demise. That is all fine and dandy but it's not for me. I like to put on a sneak to kill my birds and this is how I do it.
The first and most important thing about sneaking up on ducks is knowledge of the jump hole. A jump hole being a small pond or portion of larger lake you know ducks could be. You should know exactly where the ducks normally sit. You should know the shape and features of the jump hole. The weather conditions will matter as well. You also need to know your route and what will be involved in your path to the birds. The only way to gather all this information is experience. Trying many different routines on each jump hole to figure out what works the best.
It’s good to know where the ducks are on the pond before you attempt a sneak. This will allow you to plan where you need to sneak and what shot to use. Especially if the pond is larger than you gun can cover. Every jump pond I have I try to have an observation point (OP). Where I can look at the lake and see where the ducks are before I go for it. Some OP’s are a half mile away and some OP’s are 10 feet away. With the Op’s that are further away it is easier to look at the whole lake and plan your attack. When I have an OP that is very close I walk very slowly staying behind cover. IE a large rock or sage brush. I only allow enough of myself to be shown so I can look at the water for ducks. If you are in a heavily hunted area, the ducks will leave at first sight of you. As I watch the water I slowly move until I either see some ducks or I can see that there are no ducks on the water. If I do see ducks I immediately crouch behind my cover and retreat to plan my assault. If you are not able to have an OP play the odds and plan your attack to where the ducks would normally sit.
Weather conditions can also play a big role in where you jump the ducks. It is my experience that if it is windy the ducks will sit on the bank that the wind is coming from. So if the wind is blowing from east to west the ducks will be on the east bank trying to be protected from the wind. If the weather is windy and raining it will help muffle your sound as you are trying to get within shooting range. I tend to think when it is snowing heavily it will help conceal you from their sight. Something I have noticed if it is windy out the birds seem get up off the water faster, maybe because they can get air under their wings faster which might give them faster lift. With weather is also time of year. If you go somewhere in early fall the leaves might still be on trees to give you cover. But in late fall or winter the leaves are gone only leaving you with concealment.
It is good to know what is around your lake. Big rocks and tall grass will provide you good cover to get close to the lake. Know if there are any draws or hillsides you can utilize for cover. Know where groups of trees are and know where cover is the closest to the banks of the jump hole. You have to realize that if it is a bigger lake you are sneaking on, that to get to one good spot you might have to sacrifice another spot and let some ducks go. Also it is a good idea to know how tall the grass or cattails are around the lake.
Now that you know all these things about your jump hole figure out your route to the ducks. This starts with your vehicle. Know where you can and can’t park your vehicle. Some jump holes you have to park way away because there isn’t much cover and you would scare the ducks if you drove any closer. Some holes you can drive right next to and walk 10 feet to the water. Remember a very important detail in getting out of your vehicle, DO NOT SLAM YOUR DOOR SHUT!~! This will scare birds faster than you realize.
Once you figure out where you’re going to park figure out how you’re going to get to the water. In the world of jump shooting there is cover and there is concealment. Cover is a large solid object that you cannot be seen through. Concealment is trees and tall but thin grasses that you can be seen through but still gives you better protection than nothing. Always pick cover over concealment if you have a choice. I always try to get as far as I can using the lay off the land first. Staying behind hills or down in draws to hind me. Once I can no longer use the land I try to use big rocks or very thick vegetation. Then move to whatever else I can find to hide my movement.
Of course using camouflage that matches your environment is a must too. I find it important to hide your face. Whether it be face paint or a mask I use a balaclava which only lets my eye stick out to see what I am doing. I have seen people forget their sun glasses are on their head, this is a bad idea. If the ducks see any glare they will leave. You will also need pants that are very durable. Lots of crawling will wear through average pants very fast.
I also prefer to load my gun before the sneak. Sometimes I get within a few feet of the ducks and I don’t want them to spook because my action is closing.
Now when your next to the ducks just stand up and blast away.
Just realize that this is sometimes harder than it sounds. I have lakes that I have to belly crawl over rocks, stickers and mud and sometimes through cow pies. There are also holes you can just drive up to walk over a little hill and go bang with success.
Also if you have more hunters than is safe to all jump, figure out where the ducks will leave and place those hunters there. That way they will get passing shots after you jump the whole which will lead to fast limits for everyone. Remember most jump holes will have multiple ways of doing things depending onthe conditions and a few holes no matter what do it the same way every time.