Very few things sound better than the quack of a mallard duck call to a group of greenheads circling overhead, in some cases, what the ducks see is more important. Late-Season ducks and geese are skittish, it happens every year. By this time these birds have seen plenty of decoys, heard lots of calling and experienced more shotgun volleys than the civil war.
With all these factors in play, duck hunters must adjust their tactics accordingly if you plan on getting your limit. Tossing out a few decoys in no specific pattern will simply just not work this time of year. Creating a realistic spread, setting up for the right wind and location will work tremendously.
Late-season duck hunting is when hunters of all skill levels must try different techniques to bring in those decoy shy and call shy birds. In the south January duck hunting is known for being tough hunting, for the simple fact that they’ve seen every spread, heard every call and been shot at their entire migration. The weather is brutal, the ducks are educated and can spot duck decoys from miles away. Ensure your success while waterfowl hunting, by considering the steps below.
Less Really Can Be More
Calling ducks late season can yield a variety of results. We’ve all heard the “less is more” for late season birds. After all, the birds your hunting have probably heard every duck call and seen every decoy tactic known to man at this point. Calling less at late season ducks and letting the realism of your decoy spread draw them in can yield you and your buddies big returns.
Learn what works from hunt to hunt, if calling isn’t working, change it up. If your decoy spread isn’t working change it up. Late season birds are a whole different breed then early season birds.
The Decoy Spread
Silhouette Decoys For Visibility
Besides being easily packable and extremely light weight, silhouette decoys can add a large number of birds to your spread. Silhouette decoys also add greater visibility to your decoy spread and won’t scare any ducks away at the same time.
Used right, silhouette decoys can be a game changer when late-season hunting. Placing silhouettes directly upwind will make it hard for approaching birds to see them, try placing them in different quartering variations to give them the Illusion of motion as they work your decoy spread.
Adding Motion To Your Spread
You’ve heard it 1000 times, and it still holds true. Ducks and geese are rarely completely motionless. If you want to fool today’s highly educated waterfowl, you need to include natural movement in your decoys. There are a variety of great motion decoys and jerk rigs out there that will get the job done. The best we’ve used so far has been the motion spreader. Lightweight, easy to pack and takes up little to no room in the boat or truck, the motion spreader is a must have for late-season waterfowl.
When hunting shallow waters and throwing out dozens of decoys, it’s easiest to Texas-rig them. Being able to move quickly is a must for late-season waterfowlers and rigging your decoys Texas-rig style will allow you to pull an audible for an unpredicted wind shift. Not to mention, it’s a hell of a lot easier picking up your spread after a cold morning hunt.
Use A Variety
Scout one of your favorite honey holes for an hour or so, and you’ll see fowl in a variety of positions. Some resting, others feeding, and a few on alert. Using a variety of decoy postures will add that extra realism to your spread, thus giving you the advantage over the guy who’s got nothing but active mallard drakes. We’ve all seen that spread. . .
Building Natural Blinds
After locating the birds you are going to hunt, building your blind is the next essential step. Building a blind with store bought materials, or materials you hauled in can be a lot easier. But putting in the extra work to make the most natural blind using local materials can improve your odds on deceiving wary late season birds. This means getting out there early, stacking locks, breaking sticks, pulling reeds and piling whatever natural foliage you can find to cover you and your shadows.
With late-season hunting, you also get decoy wary ducks, especially down south where they’ve been shot at for their entire migration. Avid shooters who can hit farther targets as they skirt your decoy spread have a great advantage over those who can’t. While there is a fine line on far shots and what’s been known as “sky busting”.
Most hunters will compensate with an xtra full choke, in my opinion I prefer the kicks high flyer choke, while also changing my shot shell load.
Watch The Weather
Of course that’s what everyone says to do from opening day on, and you should. Usually this late in the season, the ducks have already arrived in their wintering grounds and primarily there to stay, but a good arctic blast can still push “new” birds in with it.
Late season ducks can be a hell of a challenge, which is no a reason to hang up the waders yet. Good duck hunting can be accomplished late-season, it’s just going to take a different approach and a different mindset then hunting early season birds.