By Steve Hickoff
Late-season ducks and geese have felt some serious pressure. They’re still alive and have passed every survival test. You want to end that with some cunning of your own. Try these ideas.
MIX IT UP
Are you a field goose guy? Hunt timber ducks. Like jump-shooting river mallards? Try setting a decoy spread for white-fronted (“specks”) and snow geese.
LESS IS MORE
Sit in on any diner discussion about late-season ducks and geese and you may hear one notion aired to all who’ll listen: “Big spreads spook late birds.” There’s some truth to this, based on experience. If you’re used to setting out dozens of floating mallards on likely water, scale back.
LET LIVE BIRDS LAND
Telling a duck or goose hunter not to shoot on late birds might be the toughest assignment you have in the blind. Still, letting real ducks and geese mix in your fake spread can add realism. With a dose of patience, you can call live birds in and let them land. With luck, others will follow. Shoot as this group cups and commits, and also as the original birds flush and rise up.
We all have tendencies for setting decoys a certain way in a certain wind at a certain time and a certain place. Do the opposite. That quiet hunter in your group who always listens to your alpha male ideas? Ask their opinion on a decoy set—this includes hunters you’re introducing to the tradition. Use your Yamaha ATV or Side-by-Side to haul the new spread in and out.
HUNT NEAR PRESSURE
If gunning is good on a reservoir or big water, find a little hole or field nearby—ideally in the flight path of ducks and geese retreating from larger waters where gunning pressure is greater. Sometimes you can pick up a few birds this way; even limit out.