Learn how to hunt waterfowl when the temperatures drop with these helpful tips.
In the spring and summer, finding ducks and geese is easy: it’s as though you could set up your blind next to a river, stream, or lake, take aim, and start firing. As the temperature drops and the hunting season arrives, however, you are going to find yourself facing increasingly difficult odds. Not only will many of the waterfowl species you are hunting already be headed south with the rest of the birds, the ones who do stick around will likely be exhibiting behaviors you aren’t used to.
As a result, you may find yourself striking out with your usual hunting times and blind locations. Don’t worry: just because you’re not seeing the birds in the same spots you normally would, that doesn’t mean you have to call it a bird hunting season just yet. Instead, adhere to the tips laid out below to score some success on a late-season waterfowl hunt. Migration time can be a great opportunity for a hunter, and as long as you know how to play the game when the whether grows cold, there’s no reason that you can’t reap the benefits.
Ditch the water and head to the field
You can’t entirely forsake water sources – after all, the name of the game is “waterfowl” – but generally, ducks, geese, and other birds won’t like to spend as much time by the lake in the early winter as they do in the dog days of summer. Water areas are extremely could. Some may even be iced over by the time you are doing your late-season hunts. For your prime hunting spot, pick a big wide-open field, preferably one located near a feeding spot and awash with sunlight. Birds will flock close together to try to conserve heat, and you’ll have your pick of the flock as long as you’ve got a good vantage point.
Know the food sources
When the weather gets cold, waterfowl will take on different eating habits than they exhibit through much of the year. Corn, acorns, and other more substantial foods are on the menu at this time of year. Birds are burning more energy to stay warm, so they need foods to support that. Stake out those food sources for an easy victory.
In the winter, it’s natural for people to want to sleep in later than they would on a bright summer day. The same is true for birds, so adjust your hunting strategies accordingly. Instead of getting up at 6:30 and setting up at 7 or 7:30, sleep another hour or so, then make sure you’re settling into your blind at about 8:30 or 9. With a little bit of luck, you’ll be getting your gun ready just as the waterfowl arrive on the scene.
Play the ice to your benefit
Thought waterfowl actually move away from the water as it gets cold out, they still need a water source to survive. It it’s so cold that rivers and lakes are freezing over, finding open water can be tough. Instead of searching tirelessly for it, make it yourself. Break the ice to give ducks and geese the water source they need, place decoys and use calls to attract bird attention, then start firing when the crowds arrive.
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article was worded wrong, in a way that led readers to believe hunting waterfowl in the spring and summer is legal. US waterfowl hunting seasons occur in the fall and winter.