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Game Plan for Late-Season Ducks

Adapt to changes in birds' behavior to enjoy top-notch duck hunting in the final weeks of the season
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Hide better

It's surprising how many hunters get lackadaisical about concealment in the post-Christmas period. By this time, ducks have been hunted all the way down the flyway, and they are especially wary of suspicious-looking setups. Yet, many waterfowlers hunt from threadbare blinds—cover blown off, shooting holes open, boat slips exposed, etc. An afternoon spent rebrushing can be a great investment for late-season hunting.

Likewise, when freelancing in swamps or flooded areas, allow enough time before the hunt to set up a temporary blind that offers full concealment from circling birds. Getting in a hurry and not hiding adequately is a costly blunder in the late season.

Anticipate major movements

Some of the best shooting of the season occurs when new flights of ducks arrive. This can happen when cold and snow push birds down the flyway or when ducks on the wintering grounds shift locations in response to changing weather and habitat conditions. Hunters who anticipate when a new push of birds will show up can enjoy banner days.

Mallards, in particular, are hardy ducks, and they often won't leave an area until ice and snow force them down the flyway. Thus, in a mild winter, some birds may linger at mid-latitudes until the late season. Even in January, hunters should keep an eye on the weather forecast. A strong winter storm in the upper half of the country can still mean new ducks in the lower half.

Also, after ducks have arrived on their wintering grounds, significant weather changes there can lead to major movements of birds up or down the flyway. Conversely, when a thaw occurs and warming winds blow from the south, these same ducks may quickly shift back up the flyway. These seesaw movements occur more than many hunters realize. This is why late-season hunting can turn from famine to feast overnight when a warm front replaces a cold front.

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