Folks love to talk about “ducky” weather, but few can agree on what that entails.
Some emphasize wind. Others insist the bottom must be falling out of the barometer. And a few get into crazy meteorological minutiae. After a while, you begin to suspect that waterfowlers have more misconceptions than actual knowledge about good duck hunting weather.
So, we turned to the pros. Here are their thoughts on the biggest weather fallacies in the waterfowl world.
Clouds From Both Sides
John Gordon, who handles public relations for Banded and Avery, said many hunters used to believe that nasty weather produced better hunting.
“But over the years, most of the hunters I know realize that the sun is your friend,” he said. “I think the biggest misconception now might be that you can’t kill birds without sun. Cloudy days are still very productive, but you have to do a better job of hiding your position. Shadows will cover a lot of problems that clouds expose. Bottom line, no matter what the condition, proper camouflage and limiting movement are still the most important fundamentals in waterfowling.”
Justin Martin, general manager of Duck Commander, often hears Southern hunters say they need cold weather to find success, and he thinks that’s not necessarily true.
“I have to be honest, I have shot more ducks in 60 to 70 degrees with a strong south wind than I ever have in the cold,” he said. “This generally coincides with an approaching front, and the birds know this. My favorite day to hunt is the day before the front. If the front is strong enough and has enough wind with it, the next day is generally productive. Often times, though, you get a beautiful clear, cold day with not much wind. That makes it tough. I don’t care personally if it’s cloudy or sunny — I just want the wind to blow. Rain will often scatter birds and send birds that are generally holed up elsewhere looking for slash water and fresh feed.
“With all of this being said, don’t let the forecast dictate when you hunt. Just go. I have hunted on days that have no rhyme or reason why there was a push of birds, but they show up. That’s why I go every day, even if it’s just for an hour or so. They are wild animals that will do as they please. I recommend keeping a log of conditions, too. I have about 10 years of data that I keep each and every day I hunt. They are creatures of habit, and it’s amazing year to year how much the patterns hold true.”
Sunny Thoughts, Foggy Musings
Jeremy Dersham, owner of Ridge and River Running Outfitters, guides hunters in southern Wisconsin and on Pool 9 of the Mississippi River, so he hears many misconceptions every season.
“I’ve heard it a million times — clients asking for rain and clouds, and we should kill ducks,” he said. “No. Clouds normally stagnate a hunt, and that also holds true with a hard rain. Birds can pick up everything when it comes cloud cover. We have to make sure every little piece of gear is extra natural when gray days are in the forecast. Big rain also isn’t a prime time to chase waterfowl. Birds normally stay grounded when it’s pouring out, but normally, it doesn’t pour all day. Rather, you get breaks, and it can get good. I had clients a few years back state they’d been watching the forecast for their hunt weeks in advance and weren’t anticipating good success due to clear skies and sunshine. They killed limits all three days. Sunshine and wind is what I’m looking for. The sun can create glares and shadows when used correctly and becomes a duck hunter’s best friend. I also want to add that we had good wind, 10 to 20 mph, during those three days, also creating great conditions.
“Another weather misconception is fog. Many times throughout a season, we have fog so thick you can’t see the end of your boat. As clients load, they discuss how the day is shot. Not so fast. The reality is early mornings become lackluster from a shooting perspective. Most of those days are still, and you hear wings and ducks splashing into the decoys without ever seeing the birds, but normally, the sun begins burning the fog off, and you see the world slowly become visible. The window when visibility becomes 20 to 50 yards can become magical. Most of those days don’t have much wind, so you can hear a pin drop and watch birds cup into the spread. It’s pretty special. Some of those days, your window is 30 minutes. Other days, it can be the bulk of the morning. The days where you have a couple of hours of visibility of 20 to 50 yards can be incredible. Just make sure you’re identifying the species of birds before calling the shot.
The reality is having appropriate gear: electronics, lighting and safety procedures to safely handle a long boat ride in the fog. Patience is also critical for those days. You’re going to pass birds due to not seeing them and identifying them in time. That’s 100 percent OK, because when she starts to life, it can become magical. Snow and ice are also magical times during the season, but just because you have them doesn’t mean limits. The time of the migration has a lot to do with how the weather is going to affect your 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.