By Steve Hickoff
Has your decoy spread gone stale? Do ducks pass your blind but keep going? Try these tricks on late-season ducks that have seen everything.
We duck hunters fall into bad habits sometimes and get lazy: same spot, same spread, same calling and same results if we’ve been skunked the last few times out. Mix it up. Ignore your old locations and try some new ones.
Get permission where you’ve seen fresh birds in a new location that doesn’t seem to be feeling any pressure. It might pay off as a one day flash hunt, or be the start of a new tradition. As always with gaining access, explain what you’ll be doing there and who you’ll be bringing into the spot, if anyone. And when you kill some ducks, offer some to the farmer or deed holder. They may politely decline but the gesture means plenty.
“Go big or go home.” We duck hunters sometimes operate by this rule. Well, big water with huge decoy spreads sometimes puts birds on the supper table. When it doesn’t, try opposing tactics. Hit small water with just a minimal number of decoys. Late in the season migrating ducks might trust just a handful of floaters on a little pond as opposed to hundreds on the nearby lake.
Are you a puddle duck hunter fond of greenheads? Has your spot gone stale? Hunt diver ducks then. Action is action, no matter your preferred species.
Your Yamaha ATV or Side-by-Side hasn’t seen any ride time since you tagged your early-season deer. Maybe you should get it out again for late-season ducks. The beauty of a four-wheeler is you can transport plenty of gear – including decoys – a long distance in a safe and reliable way.
Are you pretty much a decoy and call kind of waterfowler? Try jump-shooting loafing birds at midday where available. Whether you bring a dog along or not, it’s much like upland bird hunting and shooting.
Find one new location to duck hunt this season by simply studying maps. Remote ponds, if yet unfrozen, can provide refuge to pressured birds. This includes backcountry river systems, small streams and big water inlets.