Yamaha Outdoors Tips — Late Season Waterfowl

By Bob Humphrey


Thanks to some favorable nesting conditions, waterfowl seasons now span well past the point where most fair-weather hunters hang up their waders and head for the deer woods. And some of the best shooting comes late in the season when hungry ducks and geese pile into ever diminishing habitat. Here’s a few tips of bagging late-season birds.

Find Open Water

Still water on ponds and small lakes may be frozen over but if you can find open water you’ll probably find ducks.


Waterways - On rivers and streams, look for patches of fast-running water, in areas of steeper gradient or where smaller, faster-running streams enter larger, slower ones.


Water Bodies - The perimeter of larger lakes usually freezes first but you may be able to find open water around islands away from shore, where rivers or streams enter the lake or at the south end where the chop from prevailing winds inhibits freezing.


Coastline - Folks living near the coastline have a decided edge when it comes to late-season waterfowling. Tide and salt water may delay or even prevent ice-up and waterfowl flock to the coast when inland waters freeze out. Estuaries are great places for jump-shooting on foot or in a canoe or kayak and coastal bays and inlets may provide a good location to set up a spread of decoys.

Make Open Water

If you can’t find open water, sometimes it’s possible to make it. Break through thin ice in streams, pond margins and even flooded timber and if there are any ducks around, they’ll find it. And if the ice is just too thick, you could try the old trick of laying out sheets of plastic to simulate open water. 

Dry Land Layout

Waterfowl will remain in the area as long as there’s open water somewhere. If you can’t access it, set up a layout spread in nearby fields. This tactic is most often used for geese, but hungry ducks will land in fields as well, particularly in agricultural areas. Late-season spreads usually involve lots of decoys so load the bed of your Viking up with shells and flags and head for the field.