Lynn Burkhead — Details make the difference for late season ducks
Details can prove to be the difference maker in shooting a limit of high quality late season quackers for the dinner table…and in going home empty handed.
Especially in a year like the 2021-22 season when many Texomaland waterfowlers are finding some challenging hunting conditions.
With that idea in mind, what are those details and how do you make them work in your favor during the final month of the season?
First, you want to make sure that your blind(s) are well hidden. Because be it a layout blind, a permanent duck blind or a natural vegetation hide, hunters simply can’t be too covered up for late season success.
Meaning that when necessary, get out of bed 30 minutes early to get to your hunting spot so that you can spruce up your hide with plenty of fresh grass, stubble, cedar boughs or tree limbs. Once you think you’re done, then add some more.
A second detail to pay attention to is the topside of a blind, something that many hunters ignore.
After all, the blind is well built and the cover is dense and color coordinated with the local surroundings.
And yet the ducks still flare when they fly by.
What gives? Not enough overhead cover, that’s what. Because when ducks fly over and notice two or three fidgeting forms below, they’re gone.
For the next detail to take notice of, take it easy — at least when it comes to tossing out a decoy spread.
Because by January, ducks in the Central Flyway are tired, flocks are small, the northward migration begins in a few weeks and the approach of mating season has ducks thinking about getting paired up.
That means that a dozen or less mallards with a smattering of pintails, teal, wigeon or canvasbacks mixed will increasingly be the ticket. Add a couple of Canada goose floaters to the spread and your downsized decoy rig should be set.
This same idea — of going easy — also applies to late season duck calling.
Yeah, I know Santa just delivered a new Sure-Shot Yentzen One-2 or a RNT Original duck call to your stocking for Christmas. But the ducks don’t care. Or actually, they really do. Because if you crank up on that call and try to blow a calling routine straight from the Main Street contest stage in Stuttgart, they’re going to flare hard and kick the afterburners in.
Instead of the loud, hard sell that you’d like to do, instead focus on short and soft hail calls, some contented quacks, a few soft feed chuckles and the whistles and peeps of pintails, teal and wigeon.
Why? Because less is more right now, the key to calling in a late season limit.
Next, as important as the above notions are, don’t forget what’s lying around outside of your blind.
Because if there’s ANYTHING out of place — like a dozen or two bright red, high brass non-toxic shotgun shells or the wrapper from that Twinkie you just ate — late season ducks will certainly take notice.
And when they do, they’ll likely flare away from your January decoy spread, no matter how good it looks.
For the final detail to pay attention to, be sure that you always keep your face and hands covered up when hunting late season ducks. That means wearing either face paint or a pull-over face mask, wearing camo gloves and being as camouflaged up as you can be.
Why is this important? Well, the flash of sunlight off of a hunter’s face or hands in a blind often spells doom as ducks give the spread a final look. And while that’s true earlier in the season, it’s especially true now as the final buzzer prepares to sound.
The bottom line in this January duck hunting story is that while some of these things might seem like minor details in the art of shooting ducks, they actually can end up playing a major role in the final outcome of a hunt later on in the season.
A time of year that when small little details are ignored, well, the next thing you know, it’s winner, winner, chicken dinner.
Instead of a pair of roast ducks gracing your dinner table.