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After you get a few seasons under your belt, you'll be hooked on duck hunting. And when you've had a belly-full of public hunting areas, it may be the perfect time to form your own Duck Club.
First you have to decide whether to lease or buy. Perhaps your first step to forming your own club would be to lease. If you've done your homework you should already know some hot spots. If you are wanting to buy, you might consider some older or larger clubs. They may have deceased members or some that have moved or dropped out for one reason or another. Talk to present members of the club and check it out. If it's been a duck magnet, and you like the members (and they can accept you) this might be your dream come true.
Another possibility is to become a caretaker. That's how I got the club I own today, the Wilderness Duck Club. I began hunting with my father at the age of nine. He and his friends would lease a duck lake each season in the Grand River or Big Creek Bottoms near Clinton. We didn't always get ducks, but it was a perfect opportunity to introduce us kids to the great adventure of waterfowling. Later I hunted with several different small club owners, but couldn't afford to buy in or lease myself. I hunted public areas such as Montrose Wildlife and Truman Lake, but as you know these are more crowded each year.
I met four Kansas City fellows that had bought some duck property near Clinton. Because it was a pretty long drive from their homes, they needed a caretaker. That's where I came in. Since I lived close to their club, and with my knowledge of duck hunting, I became the caretaker. In my spare time I covered and repaired blinds, set decoys, brush hogged and did any maintenance needed in the off-season. Instead of a salary, I was treated almost like a member. I was even able to take a guest when there was extra room in a blind.
After 25 years of caretaking, one of the members regretfully passed away and I bought his share. Today we own the whole property. Our retirement home built overlooking the marsh. It's a dream come true. And I maybe looking for that perfect caretaker , myself ... hint, hint.
Caretaking is a very nice arrangement. If you check around, many local clubs may need one. For the amount of work that always needs to be done on any duck club, and your labor at your convenience, you may agree it's a small price to pay for hunting rights. Just something to think about.
The following is my personal list that should be considered before leasing for buying duck property:
Talk to all previous owners or leasees about past seasons and why they are letting the property go.
Scout the area in the fall. During spring migration birds will land on any hole of water but that doesn't mean they will be there in the season.
If you are interested in buying but are not sure about the area, ask the seller if he would lease with an option to buy, so you can check it out first.
Before buying, check conditions of levies and blinds. Preparations can be a lot of work and very expensive.
If buying, look into government and conservation programs that cost-share wetland restoration. Some programs pay $250 an acre to repair or build levies and install water valves. (Call your local MDC agent for details.)
The wetland reserve program (WRP) pays up to $750 an acre for farmland to permanently restore it to wetland if your soil type qualifies. Plus it also pays 100% for levies and water valves.
Check the access, road conditions and existing easement to and from the land.
If you form your own club, choose members that think like you. Meet monthly and set rules that all can live with. (I know clubs with too many members, all with different ideas on how it should be run. That's a bad ole' deal!)
Make sure the area has access to a creek or river to pump water during dry years, which average one out of seven.
Location, location, location! Duck lakes near major streams, rivers, flyways or conservation areas are always best.
If you wish to decoy geese as well as ducks, larger open areas within the lake are better. Geese seem to need more open areas of approach when landing, but ducks like it too.
Be prepared to buy lots of decoys and learn to use a duck and goose call. The more people in your blind that can blow a call, the better.
Build a floating blind the first year. Move it around until you can figure out the best area to set decoys. Let the ducks pick the spots. (They'll show you.)
After forming your club, get members together and name it. You club should have a name with character.
Eventually build a small (or large) club house where everyone can eat, sleep and share stories. A meeting place.
Years of experience build a duck hunter. There is no greater thrill to a waterfowler than to have mallards decoy to your own private duck club. I know, I'm Dr. Duck. Not only am I a member ... I'm the President! Until next time, think about what I said and get the youth involved. We owe it to them.