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Strategies for Public Land

Here's how to make the most of public hunting opportunities in your area
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1. Watch the Weather 

Weather changes, particularly cold fronts preceded by heavy rain, often bring fresh flights of waterfowl and better hunting. High winds, bitter cold temperatures, and other inclement weather can also make highly educated waterfowl more responsive to decoys and calling. Stay abreast of local weather forecasts and plan your hunts accordingly to coincide with the arrival of new birds and the most favorable hunting conditions. 
This was our modus operandi when torrential rainfall and rising water drew those mallards to the milo field on our local WMA. My hunting partners and I had scouted the field before the season and knew that it was loaded with grain. We hoped that a heavy rain would cause floodwater from the adjacent creek to spill into the field, and kept an eye on weather forecasts. When a big rain finally came, we knew where to go, and subsequently enjoyed one of the most spectacular hunts of our lives.

On a larger scale, rising water levels on major rivers and lakes can inundate expanses of adjoining bottomland and fields, drawing clouds of ducks to freshly flooded feeding and loafing habitats. Get to know the river and lake stages that are most favorable for hunting on public land in your area, and then check daily updates for upcoming flood events. 

DU development director Chad Manlove of Madison, Mississippi, keeps a close eye on the Yazoo River in his state's Delta region. He knows the levels at which the Yazoo starts to flood low-lying areas of Delta National Forest, a vast public hunting area. He also knows that when this happens, mallards will pour into certain remote timber holes accessible only by ATV and wading. When conditions are right, the duck hunting Manlove experiences in these locations is extraordinary.

Daily changes in weather can also influence when and where ducks fly on public hunting areas. When bitter cold temperatures lock up shallow wetlands, ducks shift to lakes, rivers, and streams. But as the sun climbs, air temperatures rise, and ice begins to melt, ducks will return to recently thawed loafing and feeding areas. At such times, midday and afternoon hunts can be more productive—and are usually much less crowded—than morning hunts. 

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