by Wade Bourne
It happens virtually every duck season. Hunting has been going well. New birds are showing up with each cold front. Ducks and geese are moving and feeding in predictable patterns, and the shooting is steady.
And then a warm spell sets in. The wind shifts to the south or southwest and diminishes to a gentle breeze. Windbreakers are more appropriate than heavy parkas. Hand warmers are long forgotten. And for many hunters, the shooting simply disappears.
Skies that were buzzing with waterfowl a few days earlier now have far less traffic as ducks and geese respond to the balmy conditions. Hunters curse the warm weather and hope for a return to conditions that are more appropriate to the season.
So what's a duck hunter to do? Stop hunting until the north wind returns? Absolutely not, say Tyson Keller and Hunter Johnson. Waterfowl still fly and feed when it's warm, and hunting can be worthwhile for those who know how to adjust to the temperate conditions. While these two veteran waterfowlers agree that hunting is better when the chill is on, they don't sit on the sidelines when it's not. The season is too short for that.
Both Keller and Johnson are members of the Avery Outdoors pro-staff. Keller, a South Dakotan, routinely targets Canada geese that concentrate on Lake Oahe and feed in surrounding grainfields. Johnson runs Locked Wings and Labs, a guide service in Missouri, where he mainly pursues puddle ducks in flooded fields and moist-soil areas. "Because we're a guide service, we have to hunt regardless of the weather conditions," Johnson says. "When it's warm, the hunting may not be as good, but we still take a fair number of birds."
During warm spells, both Johnson and Keller adjust their hunting tactics to match changes in the birds' feeding habits. When the next warm stretch hits, adopting some of their warm-weather strategies might help you stay in the action.