7 X-Factors That Could Ruin Your Duck Hunt

By author of The Duck Blog

Be Prepared When These Bothersome Situations Occur

We plot and scheme for months before opening day and fret endlessly during the season. Yet sometimes, unforeseen or even uncontrollable factors ruin our waterfowling plans.

Hey, that’s duck hunting. You can only control a finite amount of any outdoor pursuit involving wild animals. However, savvy hunters know how to roll with game-changing X-factors and save the day. Let’s examine some common monkey wrenches you might — no, will — encounter this season and look at ways to adapt.

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Weatherman Error

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1 | Weatherman Error

I’m convinced that meteorologists live to frustrate waterfowl hunters. Ever notice how forecasts of massive cold fronts and howling winds often fall through, and you arise to bluebird conditions and the same stale ducks you’ve been chasing for weeks? Or a thunderstorm pops up and sends you scurrying for the launch? I’m telling you, it’s a conspiracy.

Solution: Be prepared for these letdowns. Scout continuously to stay atop the local duck and goose situation. Look hard for hot fields and small pockets of unmolested birds. And vow to hunt hard, regardless of the conditions (provided you can stay safe). You can’t change the weather, so make the most of what you have.

Photo © swa182/Shutterstock

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Wind Shift

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2 | Wind Shift

This is part of the weatherman conspiracy. As fronts push into an area, winds might shift direction and intensity. Often, the breeze in which you set up does a 180, changing the complexion of your hunt.

Solution: Move. In small sloughs or ag fields, change your hiding spot so the wind is from your back or at least perpendicular to your setup. On bigger water, pick up your decoys, and find another area. That might be as simple as moving to the other side of a pothole or as complex as motoring to the lee shore of a large lake.

Photo © Bill Konway

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Bad Company

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3 | Bad Company

There’s no worse feeling than easing into your secret spot and discovering it’s no longer a secret. Facing unexpected competition puts a sour note on any hunt.

Solution: Have options. Remember all that scouting you’re supposed to do? Use it to identify potential Plan B (and C, D, E and so forth) areas for various conditions. Then, wish your new rival good luck, and hunt a backup spot. You might be surprised.

Photo © Bill Konway

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Mechanical Failure

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4 | Mechanical Failure

If you haven’t encountered a boat motor that won’t start or a shotgun that seemingly falls apart in the field, you haven’t hunted ducks much. Machines are prone to failure, and for waterfowlers, they save that failure for the worst times.

Solution: Prepare for that inevitability. First, make sure your equipment — guns, boats, motors, headlamps, spotlights, ATVs, trailers and spinning-wing decoys — is in top shape well before the season. Also, be ready to adapt when stuff fails. Have spare boat batteries ready just in case, and know how to switch them out. Become intimately familiar with your shotgun’s operation, and learn how to fix minor field malfunctions. And never be stubborn. If mechanical failure might potentially endanger you, call off the hunt.

Photo © Bill Konway

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Shooting Goes South

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5 | Shooting Goes South

It’s funny how those beautiful X’s on your summer sporting clays score sheets turn into whiffs when the game gets real. Even the best wing-shooters have off days.

Solution: Laugh it off. Take some deep breaths, practice shouldering your gun a few times, vow to be quick and aggressive, and — above all — forget about your misses. Revert to instinct and your off-season practice. You’ll fold the next few birds.

Photo © Bill Konway

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Dogs Behaving Badly

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6 | Dogs Behaving Badly

Like shooters, retrievers also have bad days. In new situations or when faced with great temptation, they might whine, bark, break or generally act like clueless puppies. (This typically happens in front of an audience, by the way.)

Solution: Don’t lose your cool. Your pup isn’t trying to ruin your hunt. Calmly correct his mistakes, and help him succeed. Emphasize working with him instead of shooting, and then praise him as his performance improves.

Photo © Banded

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Migration Event

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7 | Migration Event

Sometimes, Mother Nature surprises us by unexpectedly moving ducks and geese out of our area. Hey, it’s the migration season, right? We can’t get upset when birds shift locations, even to our detriment.

Solution: See what the day brings. If a strong front pushed thousands of bluebills and canvasbacks south, it might bring in goldeneyes and buffleheads. If your mid-season puddlers seem to have vanished, there might be mallards and snows on the way. Observe bird movements to get a good idea of the new scenario, and adjust your tactics accordingly.

Photo © Bill Konway

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