Sandbars at Seminole – Sans DUCKS!

Seminole is one of Georgia’s premier duck-hunting destinations. The winners of a drawing at the Outdoor Blast hunt with GON.

Known for many superlatives, Lake Seminole has long been ranked only behind the Georgia coast as the best place to duck hunt in Georgia. The ways to hunt ducks at Lake Seminole are as diverse and numerous as is the diversity of the habitat on the 37,500 acres.

One of those who know Big Sem’s duck secrets is a south Georgia native named Aaron Crews. Aaron and I have been working together for a number of years. When he and I decided to do a how-to-hunt Seminole piece, we also decided to invite a winner from a drawing at the GON Outdoor Blast to come along and learn these tricks first hand.

Wayne Moon is a GON subscriber who attended the Outdoor Blast at the Gwinnett Center last July and dropped his name in a bucket for a chance to win a Seminole duck hunt.

Wayne is a Gwinnett County native. He retired from the U. S. Postal Service, and to keep himself entertained, he drives a school bus for special needs kids. He is a former collegiate football player, on the line. He grew up hunting quail and deer. Like many Georgia hunters, he hasn’t been duck hunting… ever. This was to be his first duck hunt. He wasn’t sure he wanted to go. When I called to let him know he’d won, he texted his son to see if he wanted to go.

Zach Moon is a 20-year-old college student who is playing baseball on scholarship in South Carolina. When he got the text from Wayne, he was pumped. Along with some of his buddies, Zach has done a little duck hunting. The upshot of this became a challenge to Aaron.

However, a perfect storm was brewing against this Lake Seminole duck hunt scheduled for Dec. 19.

First, neither Wayne nor Zach had a set of waders. Waders are a necessity for the type of hunting Aaron Crews would have to employ. Ducks at Seminole quickly become wise to the fact that duck hunters like to hide in the tall cut grass. They typically won’t work decoys set close to grass. Local hunters call them “grass shy.”

And the weather has confounded everyone. Everyone knows that the worse the weather is up north, the better the duck hunting down here and at Seminole. Extreme cold up north also pushes down more “new” ducks. Read “new” ducks as dumb ducks—those that aren’t grass shy.

Obviously, the temperatures have been well above normal for almost all of December.

We were there on Friday, Dec 18, and the weather was chilly, but it certainly was not cold. Bass were crashing bait on top.

According to Aaron, the few ducks there were on the lake were already grass shy and were using the flats south of the ramp at Sealy’s Point. The way to attack this situation is what Aaron calls sandbar hunting.

There are extensive shallow flats in many areas of Seminole. Some of these flats are composed of a hard sand bottom. Since Seminole was first impounded, sportsmen have been hunting these flats by simply standing next to a stump or tree in water only 2 to 4 feet deep. Of course, knowing where those sand bars are is key to this type of hunting. Equally true is that they are easily located during daylight hours because the water clarity between the Spring Creek channel and the Flint River channel is typically excellent. A little time eyeballing the water and testing water depth and bottom firmness with a push pole will quickly show you a number of places that will permit sandbar hunting. That said, these flats are full of stumps, trees and logs. Your boat and motor will be tested.

Once you find a likely spot, you are going to need a large decoy spread. Coots are the key. My guess is that for every duck on Seminole, there will be 10 coots.

Coots form large flocks, often in open water out on these flats, where they consume the leaves of hydrilla. Large rafts of coots are a sign of safety for ducks looking for a place to land. Aaron used about 40 coots in a shallow comma-shape arcing around our location, plus a handful behind us.

Tracking the outside of that arc, he placed a variety of duck decoys including canvasbacks, redheads, bluebills, ringnecks, gadwall, bufflehead and one ruddy duck decoy.

Two points about this spread. First, he put out decoys of ducks he had seen using this area in the last couple of days. The thing to note here is that while there were not a lot of ducks on Seminole, the lake is attractive to a large variety of species of ducks.

Secondly, in the area we were hunting, Aaron did not use mallard decoys. This part of the lake is primarily attractive to divers.

In all, we had a spread of about 90 decoys.

Aaron had pre-positioned two of his layout boats in the location. Typically, it is better to simply stand in the shallow water, acting like a stump, and let the birds come to you. We had an extra set of waders for Zach, while Wayne used a layout boat.

By first light, Zach and I were standing wallet-deep in Seminole while Wayne reclined in his layout boat. Surrounded by decoys, we were set for action. We were sandbar hunting.

Our hunting success was handicapped by the difficulty of identifying ducks just at legal shooting light. There were some birds in the air, and many buzzed the decoys and some splashed into the decoys. The problem was that these birds were a mix of ducks and coots, plus some cormorants and even seagulls. In the early dawn light, to the untrained eye, early identification was tricky. Shots were passed, and some ducks only offered difficult chances after they had passed the spread. But those chances were still rare.

I will compliment both guys; they wanted to learn how to do it right, and they did not want to sky bust. I don’t think they took a shot more than 30 yards all day. If all public-water duck hunters would follow that tenant, we’d all have better duck hunting.

Having not killed a bird at our first location, we picked-up our dekes about 10 a.m. and moved west toward a location known as “Hole in the Wall.”

Some ducks were using the sandbar at the mouth of Fish Pond Drain. Zach and I set-up there with a few dekes, while Aaron and Wayne slipped into the grass and hunted from Aaron’s boat, hoping to catch a few in the calm water on the lee side of a small island as the wind began to blow. Shooting improved only a bit here, but we did manage to get the lone duck of the hunt, a female bufflehead.

Moral of the story, when the guide says don’t come, don’t go!

That said, the lake is full of food for ducks. At some point this January things will finally get cold up north, and ducks will be pushed south. When that happens, the best way to get them into gun range may be hunting the sandbars on Big Sem.

If you want to do this by yourself, take a very good GPS, a push pole and do some scouting. Ducks like some places better than others on Seminole. When your boat pushes ducks into the air, explore that area for sandbars. Big open water in front of Sealy’s Point will have more divers. Cuts and sloughs along the Chattahoochee River arm from Trail’s End Marina (the end of Hwy 253) south will hold more puddle ducks.

While your Georgia fishing license lets you fish anywhere on Lake Seminole, your hunting license is only good for Georgia waters. Don’t hunt ducks in Alabama or Florida waters without the proper hunting licenses.

If you see the weather ice up the north, “new” ducks will finally be piling into Seminole.

Perhaps I will see you there.

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