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Banding Together for Waterfowl

Five Tactics for Late-Season Ducks

Follow this expert advice to end your season on a high note 
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1. Don't Miss Migration Days

Newly arriving ducks and geese generally provide good shooting because in unfamiliar territory the birds actively seek out other waterfowl to locate food and shelter. Hunters who are attuned to the weather, anticipate the arrival of new birds, and are in the blind when fresh flights show up often experience some of the best hunting of the season.

John Evans of LaCenter, Kentucky, plans his hunts to coincide with heavy waterfowl migrations. For six decades Evans has hunted on Axe Lake, an oxbow off the lower Ohio River near its confluence with the Mississippi. This area is in the neck of the proverbial hourglass, where ducks migrating along both big rivers converge.

"I've had some wonderful days when big flights of new ducks came in high, and you almost didn't have to blow a call at them to get them to work," Evans recalls. "Those flight days are something else."

And, he says, such days are predictable. "When there's a strong cold front moving into central Illinois, we can expect to see new birds," Evans explains. "The ducks generally come on the leading edge of the front. They start arriving when the winds are kicking up at 10 to 20 miles per hour from the north and the temperature is falling. They come in high, and they come down in big sweeping circles over Axe Lake. We always hunt the north (upwind) side of the lake, since the birds want to land there to get out of the rough water."

Evans says these migrating ducks have a different look and attitude than "local" birds that have been in the area for several days. "They're easy to identify. They're not leery at all. They look anxious to get down out of the wind and the weather that's driven them down the flyway," he says. 

The key to timing the migration is keeping up with weather forecasts. "TV and Internet weather information is so good now, there's no excuse for not knowing when a front is coming," Evans says. "You just follow what's happening to the north of you, and when conditions get right, you'd better get in the blind. I've seen days when nothing was moving at all, and then suddenly it's like somebody's flipped on the switch. Ducks started pouring in."

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