The morning was foggy with just enough wind to keep the decoys moving, pretty close to perfect conditions for duck hunting. They were plenty of birds in the air, especially within the first hour of shooting time. Gadwalls, teal, widgeon and a few ringnecks looked our decoys over from just out of range but very few cupped their wings and presented slam dunk shots, as decoying ducks are supposed to do. Several flights made three or four pass above the spread but failed to glide within shotgun range.
Why, one might ask, would our harvest go down so drastically from the majority of previous hunts? The reason is simple and one that is challenging during late season every year: the birds have seen it all during their migration down from Canada and the pothole regions of the northern U.S.; they are much more educated than they were during the first of the season.
Sometimes adjustment to the style and frequency of calling is necessary for smart, late season ducks. That old hen mallard highball or comeback call that might have work on species such as teal and gadwall a month ago is beginning to lose its effectiveness. Listenting to passing birds closely and calling to specific species is a good plan. If widgeon are present, leave the ‘quacking’ hen mallard on the lanyard and reach for the whistle.
Each hard cold front pushes more and more ducks south and numbers are high but these birds are veterans of the flyway. Hide better, change up your decoy spread until you find the formula the birds respond best to. Also, try using a spinning wind decoy, some find them very effective, especially during periods of fog or little wind.