With the waterfowl hunting season progressing, ducks and geese become increasingly more shy and wary. After being subjected to hunting pressure for two months, ducks and geese are less likely to respond to techniques that hunters used on opening day. Here are a few tips to consider when hunting late season birds.
Concealment – Late season waterfowl are very skittish and will take extra time inspecting potential landing areas. Ducks and geese will circle repeatedly before committing to landing, and anything unnatural sends them flaring. Total concealment is a must for late season ducks and geese. Wear appropriate camouflage for the conditions, whether you’re hunting field stubble, a river blind, snow, etc. Don’t forget to cover your face! Face-paint, a face mask, or a balaclava all work well as cover up. In your blinds, be sure to have sufficient overhead cover to prevent ducks and geese from seeing you when they are looking down. Take extra time to add natural vegetation to your blind. When you think you’ve added enough, add some more! I always carry camo netting or burlap to use in an emergency, or to cover up the unexpected. Whenever possible, position yourself so that you and/or your blind does not cast a long shadow as the sun moves.
Decoys – When it comes to decoys, think small spreads for late season hunting. Large decoy spreads and motion decoys that worked well during the early season are less effective as the season progresses. Scale back decoy spreads to as few as a half dozen clean, lifelike decoys. Consider using “confidence” decoys like swans or coots to put birds at ease. Don’t be afraid to experiment with spreads that ducks and geese haven’t seen.
Calling – During the late season, less is more. Ducks and geese that have been hunted repeatedly have heard everything, and don’t respond well to loud, repeated calling. Call softly and sparingly. When birds are circling, it’s best to call as they fly away from you; call to tails and wing tips! Quiet, natural calls like feed calls, chuckles, and the whistle of a drake mallard are particularly effective.
While hunting the late season offers a few challenges, some of the best waterfowl hunting can be had as the season progresses and the weather worsens. Incorporate these tips to increase your success. Above all, have fun and hunt safe!