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Leg irons: elusive for some, plentiful for others, a lanyard full of bands is the ultimate in waterfowling bragging rights.

They enchant us, beguile us, hypnotize us and sometimes even polarize us. Banded birds are waterfowling's holy grail. Many a duck hunter would probably choose a bird that lands with a clank over a gold coin, if offered. And band fever only gets worse: As hunting pressure increases and banding programs are trimmed, they become more coveted still. Sometimes five leg irons appear in a single flock; other times entire duck clubs go years without sighting a bejeweled bird. WILDFOWL friend and photographer Scott Moody has scored many with his lens for you to enjoy in these pages, and we caught up with him to chat about his obsession.


Where do you do most of your shooting?


I'm located in Havre de Grace, Maryland, situated at the mouth of the Susquehanna River and the head of Chesapeake Bay: also known as the Decoy Capital of the World. I started photographing waterfowl in 2005 as a way to extend my hunting season by several weeks when the birds migrate back through the area. I wasn't ready to give up chasing birds for the season and the camera was a perfect choice to keep my passion alive.


Do you get more excited "scoring a band" with camera or gun?


Scoring a band either way is a pretty special thing. I've shot a few bands with the gun over the years and have fond memories of each of those hunts, but shooting a band with the camera is much more rewarding and longer lasting for me--plus the whole "who shot it" argument is out the door. I do know that when I see a band through the lens I find myself expecting the bird to show off the band for me and pose like a model. That rarely works out.


Are you seeing them less frequently?


I've noticed over the past several years that the number of bands I've photographed is certainly on the decline. I have managed several shots of banded birds that I would consider once-in-a-lifetime shots, including a drake canvasback, drake scaup, drake wigeon and drake wood duck. It doesn't get any better than that.


What do you shoot with? Give us some pointers.


I shoot a Canon 1DX main body with a variety of Canon L glass from 17mm to 600mm with a Canon 5DII as a backup for wide-angle shots--or in case I take an unexpected dip in the water. Water and cameras don't mix very well and insurance helps the wallet. Hunting with the camera has me in the field chasing ducks and geese much longer than with the gun. By the end of January most guys are wrapping up the hunting season and I'm in photo blind building mode, gearing up for the best photo opportunities of the year. I hunt ducks with the camera the same way as with the gun: I use camo, waders, blinds, calls and decoys to help get that perfect shot. It doesn't get much better than having birds so close that they hear the camera shutter going off and have no idea where it's coming from. To get the best photos, you have to get closer than you do with the gun. I've learned over the years that rarely is the bird too close for the camera, and that birds are much smarter than you think. It's wise to learn as much as possible about your photography equipment to take full advantage of those few special days that you get behind the lens. Those a great hunt, well, you will never forget them.

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Title Annotation:LEG IRONS
Date:Aug 1, 2014
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