Wild duck hunting is one of the coldest and most exciting types of wing shooting in Bulgaria. There are three types of duck hunting. The first kind is at flight, early in the morning and at dusk. The second kind is with fake lures at the resting spots (reservoirs, dams, rivers and runoff water). The third kind is walked up hunting along river banks, canals and streams.
When hunting in the early hours of the morning, the hunters have to be at the hunting spots before dawn. The birds move from ther feeding spots towards the resting spots. Those are normally large dams and high-water rivers. Wearing warm clothes is recommended, but using camouflage coverings is a must, due to the fact that these birds have a sharp eyesight and a very acute sense of hearing. It is a good idea for hunters to use auditory decoys, so as to direct the birds towards themselves. You may use retriever dogs (Golden Retrievers, Labradors, Drahthaarts, Kurzhaarts and Setters). The dogs need to be very disciplined, compliant and to obey the command “Stay in place!”. Dogs with experience trace the shot birds by themselves and swiftly retrieve them for their guide.
During the hunts at dusk, it is advisable to lie in wait for the ducks at their feeding spots. Those are: surface runoff areas (overland flow), harvested fields (rice fields), shallow streams, flooded corn fields (grooves filled with water). It is mandatory to use auditory decoys, so as to direct the birds towards the desired places. It is advisable to use retriever dogs, due to the fact that the hunt takes place in the darker hours of the day. For this kind of wing shooting in Bulgaria, using Drahthaars and Kurzhaars brings greater success. They are able to find the shot birds visually as well as by smell, while Labradors and Golden Retrievers tend to track the bird visually and are more suited for hunting at wide open water areas (reflective water surfaces).
Walked up hunting is the second method of hunting ducks. That is an emotion-filled outing involving long hikes, which is why the hunter must be in excellent health. This kind of hunt is most sucessful when the bigger dams in the area freeze over. Smaller canals and rivers do not allow the water to freeze even at temperatures below -15 degrees. Birds are aware of that and they find favourable conditions to rest and eat. It is recommended to start this type of hunt at 6am, and it can last until as late as 5pm. It may then be combined with an evening hunt at dusk. Combined, the two types of hunt can bring wonderful results. During walked up hunts, it is good to use a guide who knows the places where the birds rest during the day. Once you near the resting spots, you need to move quietly and stay low. You need to use the surrounding vegetation as a cover while you approach the birds and use the element of surprise. It’s possible to lift between 20 and 50 birds into the air at one of these spots. When moving along a riverbank or canal, you need a disciplined dog that walks no more than 15-20 steps ahead of you. Once you near the resting spots, the dog must obey the command „Heel!“ or “Behind me!” so as not to lift the resting game birds. In Bulgaria, the most widely established dog breeds are Drahthaar and Kurzhaar. Once the birds have been shot, the dogs must retrieve the birds from water as well as dry land under the command “Retrieve!”. The dog must be able to maneuvre through obstacles (water obstacles, fallen trees, ponds, etc.) – in other words, it needs to be hardy while retrieving.
The third kind of hunting is by lying in wait for the birds at their resting spots. Those are: large reservoirs (dams), surface runoffs. It is mandatory to use lures (decoys). It is advisable to put between 40 and 100 duck decoys into the water. It is good to have two or three pairs of spinning wing decoys (mojos). You may use mobile duck decoys with electric motors, so as to create the illusion that the birds are moving. The hunters need to have made a temporary hiding place at the river bank. It must blend in with the terrain so as not to arouse suspicion in the birds. A boat camouflaged with reed vegetation can be used for the same purpose. Hunting by boat allows the hunters to choose the hunting spots for themselves. When using decoys in such cases, they need to be mobile, with built-in chords and weights (so that they can be thrown directly from the boat).