6 Duck Hunting Excuses (and How to Not Use Them This Season)

By author of The Duck Blog

Don't Explain Away Poor Hunts; Adapt to Find Success

No Migration/Stale Local Ducks

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1 | No Migration/Stale Local Ducks

This is a tough scenario. Hunters in production states stare at the same ducks and geese they’ve seen for weeks and watch in frustration as those birds loaf in refuges or congregate in areas that cannot be hunted. Southern hunters have it worse, as they scowl at weather forecasts and imagine tens of thousands of mallards stacked up north of the Mason-Dixon Line.

But look at the bright side. Stale local ducks, although challenging, still provide some opportunity for enterprising hunters. And even during the warmest, poorest migration years, at least some ducks and geese head south when the calendar hits a specific date — even mallards.

Take advantage of every potential opportunity. Work harder than everyone else to find remote channels or secluded potholes where pressured wood ducks escape hunters. Scout for miles to locate that hidden field where honkers and mallards are feeding. And if nothing but calendar ducks — greenwings, gadwalls, redheads and others — have migrated into your area, pursue those.

Every hunt has value. Wring what you can from the stale-duck scenario, and you’ll be battle-hardened and ready for that magical day when the northern birds arrive.

Photo © Aaron Avery Wood/Shutterstock

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Too Crowded

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2 | Too Crowded

Interference from competing hunters can ruin your day. Even if you wake up at 2 a.m. and paddle to the far reaches of a marsh, there’s no guarantee someone won’t set up 50 yards downwind from you at sunup.

Hedge your bets by avoiding potentially popular areas. During opening weekend in Northern states, stay away from spots with public boat landings. Farther down the flyway, eschew well-known management properties that might attract lots of out-of-state interest, at least during weekends.

Further, identify situations that attract ducks and geese but deter most hunters — that is, situations that demand lots of effort. A North Dakota slough visible from a state highway will surely see pressure, but that tiny pothole a mile distant probably won’t — especially if you have to walk to it. That’s where you want to hunt.

Photo © Bill Konway

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Too Calm

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3 | Too Calm

Wind gets ducks and geese moving, so calm days can be legitimately frustrating, especially for timber hunters or big-water diver guys. However, a flat lake doesn’t guarantee an empty boat.

Ducks and geese still trade between roosting and feeding areas during mornings and evenings. Be in position to take advantage of those magical hours, and make the most of them. If possible, incorporate some type of motion in your spread, whether it’s a jerk-string rig, a swimming decoy or even the ubiquitous spinning-wing decoys. And because wind isn’t a factor, make sure to set up with the rising or setting sun at your back. Birds won’t be able to see you well as they approach.

After early-morning action dies and waterfowl loaf in refuges or hidden spots, try jump-shooting small sloughs or streams. That might not make for a classic day, but it can be very productive.

Photo © Tim Zurowski/Shutterstock

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Too Warm

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4 | Too Warm

This usually goes hand in hand with the stale-duck/no-migration excuse. Unseasonably warm temperatures make hunting tough because birds don’t want to move as much. Think about it: If you wore a winter coat during a 70-degree day, would you feel like running?

Beat this scenario the same way you’d tackle a calm day: Take full advantage of the first and last hours of daylight. In between, jump-shoot sloughs, creeks or loafing ponds. Meanwhile, continue scouting like crazy for food sources and roosting areas — spots that might get red-hot when the weather turns.

Photo © Bill Konway

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Too Cold

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5 | Too Cold

What? Any waterfowler who says it’s too cold should turn in his Official Duck Bum Card.

But seriously, frigid temperatures can lock many waters in ice and send waterfowl packing to warmer climes.

Even in the frigid North, however, some areas and food sources stay open, and not all birds leave. In fact, they congregate in the limited open water available, and hunting can be fantastic. Look for springs, creeks, rivers and large lakes that stay open when the mercury plummets. Find hot fields and other feeding areas nearby. Be willing to break ice — within safe parameters, of course — or trudge through some snow to reach the X.

Yeah, your face might burn, and your fingers will surely sting. And freezing weather can be rough on equipment, too. But there is nothing as satisfying as hoisting several fat, fully feathered mallards or honkers after a cold late-season hunt.

Photo © Steve Oehlenschlager/Shutterstock

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Same Old Situation

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6 | Same Old Situation

Sometimes, we psych ourselves out, believing that our waterfowling situation isn’t worthwhile. You’ve heard the lines. “The birds probably won’t work.” “Those other guys might be hunting.” “It’s not supposed to be windy.” “There’s nothing but spoonies around.”

Now and then, it pays to shake things up. Try something new or seemingly off the wall. Pick a spot on a map, and resolve to hunt it. Experiment with a new tactic or different location. Ask an acquaintance if you can tag along one day to see how other folks hunt. Get out of that rut.

None of that guarantees success, of course, but nothing does. However, staying in a funk and talking yourself out of hunting ensures that you’ll have a crummy duck season.

Photo © Bill Konway

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Every outdoorsman falls into the trap of using excuses to explain subpar days afield. Waterfowl hunters are no different.

A psychologist might classify this behavior as a defense mechanism; our way of rationalizing a poor performance. Sometimes, those excuses are legitimate, as many factors can make waterfowling difficult or even ruin a hunt. But other days, they’re just an easy way to make yourself and other folks believe that a bad day of hunting wasn’t your fault. And soon, you fall into that trap too easily.

Don’t do it. Instead of making excuses this year, find ways to overcome challenging situations and succeed. No, you won’t take home a full strap of birds every day. No one does. But beating the odds and shooting at least a few ducks or geese is far better than sitting at home and rattling off lame clichés.

Let’s examine some common duck hunting excuses and identify ways to avoid using them this fall.

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