Humburg says pair bonding occurs earlier in wet years. As a result, the birds' shift to thick cover happens earlier in wet years than in dry years, when pairing is delayed.
"Hunters who understand that this shift takes place must decide whether to hunt in the thick places or the more open habitats," he continues. "There might not be as many ducks in the shrub/scrub wetlands, but if you are in the right spot, some good shooting can be found in this dense cover."
So, does this mean that late-season hunters should abandon flooded fields and move into the thickets? Not at all. "In January, a fair number of ducks still aren't paired, and they will be in larger groups in feeding areas." Humburg explains. "These flocks will hold more drakes than hens, and these males are usually anxious to find mates, which can make them more responsive to calls and decoys.
"So, a hunter has to make a choice: hunt the thick areas where pairs can seclude themselves, or hunt the flooded fields where unpaired ducks are more abundant. Often the latter option is the better one in the late season."
Tactics for Late-Season Hunting
As mentioned previously, hunters should abandon the mindset that the late season brings slow hunting. It brings different hunting, and those who adjust to the differences can enjoy good shooting right to closing time. This means changing tactics to match the conditions and challenges of late winter. Early-season tactics aren't nearly as effective down the home stretch.