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Banding Together for Waterfowl

Mid-Season Magic

Tips from 3 avid hunters to help solve the mid-season riddle
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By John Pollman

The middle of the season is possibly the most challenging time for waterfowl hunters. During this period, ducks and geese are notorious for skirting decoy spreads, ignoring calls, and in some cases, simply disappearing. Following are some useful tips from three avid hunters to help solve the riddle that is mid-season waterfowl hunting.

Don't Give Up on Public Hunting Areas

Kent Contreras loves to hunt ducks and geese over water.

Specifically, this Avery pro-staffer loves the challenge of hunting on public rivers, backwater sloughs, ponds and lakes near his home in Newport, Washington.

By mid-season, though, hunting on these public areas can be challenging, but Contreras says that good hunting opportunities are still there.

"After the first few weeks of the season, the hunting is going to slow down," Contreras says. "When this happens, you may need to work a little harder and change your tactics to have a successful hunt."

For starters, Contreras spends more time scouting small ponds, creeks and rivers. He looks for small, out-of-the-way honey-holes – protected potholes or shallow, open wetlands that have little cover – areas that other hunters may simply overlook.

"You'll be surprised by how many birds use these spots," Contreras says. "Using a small layout boat or waterproof tub for your layout blind will give you access to areas that typically are not hunted."

When hunting wary mid-season birds, Contreras likes to use the most realistic decoys he can find. Decoy placement is also important. "If the birds are loafing on the shorelines and hanging close to shore, I'll place my decoys in similar positions," he says. "If they are dabbling offshore and staying in groups, I'll do the same. This is a good starting point for the morning, and I can adjust the spread as the day progresses."

And one other small bit of advice: be on time.

"Be ready to shoot by hunting light," Contreras says. "Early morning flights can provide your only shooting of the day. If you're still setting decoys at shooting light, you may miss out on your only opportunities."

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