Another case in point: I talked to an Arkansas guide once who was hunting during a hard freeze. He and his clients were lying out in a barren soybean field on sunny days.
“We’re getting set up by noon, and the ducks show up around one o’clock,” he told me. “We figured out that in the morning, the birds can’t grub the beans out of the frozen ground. But by early afternoon, the sun has thawed the field enough for the ducks to pick the beans out of the mud. The shooting has been fantastic.”
And then there are days when the hunting might be slow, but a front is on the way, bringing with it the prospect of migrating ducks. When new birds arrive, it can be a famine-to-feast situation. One minute, no ducks; the next, swarms of flight-weary birds are landing in your decoys.
Several seasons ago, two friends and I were having a slow morning on Barkley Lake in west Kentucky. We knew a cold front was coming, but by noon, our spirits were sagging. We called it a day, loaded our gear in the boat, and headed back to the ramp. Just before we got there, the wind swung sharply to the north, and the air grew noticeably cooler.
As we were loading the boat onto the trailer, we looked back across the lake and saw a large flock of mallards buzzing our permanent decoy spread. “Think we should go back out?” one of my partners asked.
“Nope, let’s head home,” I responded, failing to realize what was happening.
That night, another friend who hunted in a nearby blind called me. “I saw you go in,” he said. “You missed the most awesome day of duck hunting I’ve ever seen. Right after you left, flock after flock rolled down the lake, and they were all in a kamikaze mood.”
I never made that mistake again. Of course, once a migration has occurred and your hunting area is holding lots of birds, managing hunting pressure can be especially important. But the point is, ducks don’t always follow our preconceived notions of when they will fly and when they won’t. Sometimes, they fly and work best during midday because of weather conditions, feeding patterns, or the timing of migratory flights. The best advice is to occupy your blind whenever you can—early, late, and in the middle of the day. Some days your persistence will go unrewarded, but other days it may lead to a barnburner.
You have to be there to find out.