Stale Weather Patterns
Give veteran waterfowl hunter and Avery pro-staffer Joe James a cold-weather migration event on the northern plains followed by crisp, clear skies above the green timber near Stuttgart, Arkansas
, and he knows that the woods will be prime for decoying mallards.
Unfortunately, Mother Nature doesn't always dial up the perfect forecast for hunting, or worse yet, as James explains, she sometimes doesn't dial up anything at all.
"At some point every year, it seems, we find ourselves in a pattern of warm, balmy weather, and the duck hunting really slows down," James says. "Day after day of the same stuff, the hunting can really get tough."
A stagnant weather pattern is especially frustrating, James explains, when it happens toward the front end of the season.
"You might have had a push of birds down here around Thanksgiving, and then the weather just shuts off," he says. "By Christmas, you've been hunting the same birds for several weeks, and they are extremely difficult to decoy."
When the hunting is stuck in a rut, James begins to mix up his approach to a morning in the woods by using a smaller decoy spread (or no decoys at all), creating motion in the decoys by pulling the jerk string or kicking the water, and putting an emphasis on calling.
"Being able to read ducks and really know how and when to operate a duck call will play in your favor at this point," James adds. "But this usually means using soft calling, light feeding calls – sometimes hardly any calling at all."
Scouting also becomes a priority, James says, as ducks will often start using different areas when the weather turns off or heavy hunting pressure turns on.
"Ducks are going to be ducks, and they are going to move around, even to areas where you've never seen a bird before," he explains. "So you can't be afraid to move to a different part of the woods or get in the boat or the truck and look around. The more time you spend scouting, the better off you'll be."
It would be nice if Mother Nature tempered the elements in favor of the hunter each day of the waterfowl season, James says, but the reality is often quite the opposite.
"You have to work with what you get," he says. "There are those days when things don't come together, but when they do, the success tastes that much sweeter."