Many public-land hunters are used to setting up well before legal light to claim their spot. I used to motor out and set my decoys in the dark, allowing plenty of time for the marsh to settle down after I cut off my two-stroke outboard. Usually, I’d see a flurry of ducks that were gone before legal shooting light. A lot of ducks roost in the marsh areas I hunt, so even with a small motor, it was impossible to get set up without spooking birds.
Then a few seasons ago, I had some motor trouble and went hunting with my kayak instead. What a difference it made. Now I consistently kill more ducks at daybreak by sneaking in undetected via paddle power at the last minute. Kayaks are fantastic craft for accessing the shallow waters where puddle ducks spend most of their time, and they are just about silent if you don’t lean into the paddles too hard. The low profile of the vessel disappears against the bank if you trace the edges of channels or creeks too.
Paddle in just before shooting time and quietly get set up. As the stroke of the clock signals the start of another hunting day, gently slap the water with the blade of your paddle. The sound will put ducks in the air without sending them to the next county, and they will frequently trickle right in to your decoys.
To take advantage of this technique, practice paddling silently on some scouting runs before the season starts. When you can get in position without spooking any ducks, you’ll know you have it mastered. Just be prepared to have less time to drink your coffee in the marsh.