And how to get your hunting campaign back on track
Sometimes, duck season can turn sour. Months of pre-season planning, shooting and calling practice culminate in a huge thud instead of a breakout year. And after a while, you hit the snooze button more often or even question whether hunting is worth the effort.
Spoiler alert: It’s always worth the effort. But now and then, you must re-focus your effort to turn a disappointing season into a memorable campaign.
Here are six reasons why your duck season might have stunk thus far and some thoughts on how to rebound.
Remember that awesome spot where you pulled limits the past two years? Absolutely try it again this fall. Just don’t stake all your hopes on it. Some places produce ducks season after season, but others tend to ebb and flow. If it ain’t happening at your go-to honey hole, look elsewhere.
When good duck spots get popular, hunting suffers. Human pressure simply makes it more difficult to consistently kill birds. I’ve seen it on remote prairie sloughs and especially here in my hunter-heavy home state of Wisconsin.
Get away from the crowds. Avoid spots with public boat landings. I don’t care how many ducks a popular public marsh is holding — go somewhere else. You’ll do much better at an area with half the ducks and a fraction of the pressure.
Did you scout before the season, or did you just hear some beer buddies talking and do a few internet searches? Huge difference. Scouting requires windshield time, boot leather, lots of glassing sessions and repeated failures before striking gold. Bar-stool and internet scouting lead you to a firing line with 200 of your closest friends on a Saturday morning.
Don’t believe anything unless you witness it. Go explore new water. Search hard for hot fields. Walk into remote areas. Finding one gem can turn your season around quickly.
Not Taking What You’re Given
Sometimes, we go into fall with preconceived expectations. But when the canvasbacks don’t arrive on cue or mallards seem to be hiding up North, we get discouraged. Never mind that we could enjoy good shooting on other species.
There’s usually opportunity somewhere throughout the season. Take advantage of it. Don’t foolishly pound shot-out wood duck holes when you could regularly shoot geese in fresh-cut cornfields. Don’t moan and groan about short-stopped greenheads when gadwall abound. Take what you’re given, and enjoy the action.
Trying Too Hard
I’m pretty hard-headed, but I’ve learned that you just need to let things flow sometimes. If your duck season has disappointed thus far despite your best, smartest efforts, let it go. Learn from your mistakes, laugh off your failures and, above all, relax. Duck hunting is supposed to be fun; a celebration of the grand passage and wild places.
Don’t put pressure on yourself or walk around with a chip on your shoulder. Go hunt because you love it. The rest will fall into place.
You Live in the South
Wait — duck seasons aren’t even open in many Southern states. If you live in one, your duck season cannot have sucked yet. In fact, it’ll probably be really good. Get ready, boys, because the birds are on their way. Meanwhile, click here to get all the info you’ll need this year.
The Impossible Concept
Looking back, I’ve never experienced a bad duck season. Oh sure, I’ve had some during which I shot far fewer birds than others, but they weren’t bad. That was probably just the natural cycle of things.
Years ago, I apologized to an older friend about dragging him on a fruitless trip, mumbling something about ruining his hunting. He grinned and said, “You could never ruin my hunting.”
Good advice. Now go hunt.
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Realtree waterfowl editor Brian Lovett has been an obsessive duck and goose hunter for more than 30 years, chasing his passion on the Dakota prairies and the marshes and open water of his home state of Wisconsin. He's been a writer and editor in the outdoors industry since 1991.