Gear Review – The LeMaster Method Waterfowl Identification Book

This year the following where the regulations we had to deal with in the Southern California zone for waterfowl:

Ducks (including Mergansers).
From the fourth Saturday in October extending for 100 days.
Scaup: From the first Saturday in November extending for 86 days.
Daily bag limit: 7
Daily bag limit may include:
• 7 mallards, but not more than 2 females.
• 2 pintail (either sex).
• 1 canvasback (either sex).
• 2 redheads (either sex).
• 3 scaup (either sex).

….ah, ya think it was important to be able to identify birds on the wing in the field this year? And, I’m sure, the regulations will be just as complicated, if not more so, next season. Gone are the “good old days” where we could go out there and bag a 7-bird limit and it didn’t matter what species they were.

Due to these regulations a book on waterfowl identification is an essential piece of gear to carry in your blind bag. In fact, it should be an essential piece of equipment to carry on scouting trips or just occasional jaunts to the local marsh, ecological reserve, park-lake or whatever waterfowl habitat might be close by were you can brush up on your duck ID skills off season.

The best waterfowl ID book I’ve seen, bar none, is The LeMaster Method Waterfowl Identification by Richard LeMaster.

The LeMaster Method covers al the waterfowl you might run across in California, as well as other areas of the country. The book is spiral bound, which makes it easy to lay flat and keep it opened to whatever page you like to look at no matter if you’re looking at it on a table at home or laying it on top of your blind bag in the field. The pages on each bird show you a profile of the bird in flight, male and female, a profile of the bird’s head, showing the different plumages at different times during the season and a life-sized picture of the male and female bills.

Another great aspect of The LeMaster Method book is four pages of side-by-side duck and goose bill pictures for comparison to help ID the bird in hand. In fact, the check station at San Jacinto Wildlife Area uses these four pages out of The LeMater Method at their check in table to help ID the birds hunters check in.

The great thing about these bill picture pages is that all you have to do is lay the bird’s bill on the page and if the size and color match you have your bird identified.

Also included in the book are two pages of duck feet pictures to assist with identification of the bird once it’s bagged.

In addition, LeMaster has included four pages of “flight levels” for the ducks. These pages illustrate the likely of four “flight levels” that each species of bird is likely to fly at in non-migratory flight which is another assist in identifying birds on the wing.

The LeMaster Method Waterfowl Identification is available directly from the publisher, Stackpole Books, for $10.95 at:  (edit 7/12/21 – Stackpole apparently does not sell direct to the public anymore.  The link below will take you to their webpage on this book and there are 5 links on that page that have it for sale)

This is, in my opinion, required reading for any waterfowler in the Southern California area, or anywhere else for that matter.

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