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Waterfowling Game Changers

Change is a fact of life for waterfowlers. When ducks and geese quit playing by the rules, it may be time for waterfowlers to rewrite the playbook. Following is advice from four expert hunters on how to adapt your hunting tactics to bag more birds this fall.

Waterfowler's Notebook: My Blind Bag Checklist

I learned the value of checklists as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force. All pilots are taught to follow their checklists religiously to avoid mistakes that could embarrass them, or worse, cost them their lives. Forgetting your shotgun shells on a duck hunt might not be as consequential as neglecting to set an airplane's flaps for takeoff, but it can certainly be embarrassing and frustrating. That's why I depend on my blind bag checklist.

Migration Alert: Illinois Light Goose Numbers Plummet, Birds Move North

"Gone With the Wind" appears to be more than a film saga featuring Scarlett and Rhett. It's also apparently what's happened to snow geese in Illinois. A check with refuge managers and hunters around this state reveals that the main northward migration of these birds has already taken place. Numbers of light geese in Illinois have dropped markedly in the last week, and hunters are now taking leftovers and hoping there are a few more birds yet to come up from the south.

Migration Alert: Mississippi Flyway Waterfowl Season Wrap-Up

The curtain is about to drop on duck seasons in the lower Mississippi River Valley, and waterfowl managers in the region agree that this has been a season of extremes. Record high temperatures prevailed throughout December and early January, and heavy rains caused widespread flooding, which scattered ducks across an abundance of habitat in the backwaters.

Migration Alert: Tough Season for Many Arkansas Duck Hunters

If there's one word to describe the 2015-2016 waterfowl season in Arkansas (and elsewhere), it's "confusing!" Since the season reopened in November, hunters have scratched their heads, scanned the skies and wondered when the ducks were coming, and where they might be. Many still have not gotten answers.

Migration Alert: West Tennessee Duck Numbers Increasing, Flood Hurts Hunting

Water, water everywhere. That's the song many duck hunters are singing in Tennessee, especially in the western half of the state. The Mississippi River is flooding and covering thousands of acres of woods and open fields, both adjacent to the river and along several major tributaries. Kentucky and Barkley Lakes are abnormally high for this time of year. Blinds on several state wildlife management areas are submerged.

Migration Alert: Mild Temps Hold Peak Numbers in Missouri

In Missouri, it's been a "crazy" duck hunting season with a lot of "goofy" weather, according to Andy Raedeke, waterfowl biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation. Raedeke reports that warmer-than-normal weather has stalled the migration, and some Show Me State hunters are struggling because of this while others are benefiting from it.

Waterfowler's Notebook: Strategies for Specklebellies

Try this expert advice to bag more white-fronted geese

Migration Alert: Arkansas Second Split Opens with Mixed Results

Hit or miss: that's how many Arkansas waterfowlers would likely describe their hunting success as the second split of the state's duck season opened on December 10. Some areas are holding fair numbers of ducks, while others are almost devoid of birds. Hunters might find a lot of ducks concentrated in a small area or they may spend several hours scouting and still come up empty handed.

Migration Alert: Relief for Waterfowlers in Illinois, Migration Picks up Pace

Illinois hunters are dealing with a water anomaly – too much in the summer and too little during the current hunting season. This combination of extremes, coupled with a late migration, has put a damper on both numbers of waterfowl and hunter success in this central Mississippi Flyway state. Fortunately, winter weather will inevitably push ducks and geese south, and hunters in Illinois should be prepared.

Migration Alert: Ohio Hunters Enjoy Early Success, Await Migration

Ohio's Marsh Zone along the southern Lake Erie shoreline is arguably the state's best duck hunting area, and the season here is now closed until the second split begins on Nov. 14. As far as local hunters are concerned, the timing couldn't be better.

Migration Alert: Michigan Hunters May Benefit from Weekend Weather

Remnants of Hurricane Patricia brought rain and high winds to Michigan this week, but unfortunately not many ducks. Reports from around the Wolverine State paint a picture of unseasonably warm weather, few new birds, and slow duck hunting.

Migration Alert: Slow, Steady Increase in Wisconsin Waterfowl Numbers

"Trickle-down effect." This is an apt description of what waterfowl hunters are experiencing in Wisconsin. The migration is on, and duck and goose numbers are increasing, but not at a fast pace. Some new birds drifted into the state on last weekend's north wind and lower temperatures, but evidently that wasn't "the big push" hunters have been waiting for. And now, with a warming trend and southerly winds once again prevailing across the Badger State, conditions aren't right to provide a big boost to waterfowl numbers or hunter success.

Seven Pointers for Puddle Ducks

Many duck hunters are generalists. Sometimes, though, it's better to use specific tactics to target individual species. Following are tips designed to help you fine-tune your waterfowling methods to bag more puddlers in these and other species-specific hunting scenarios.

Migration Alert: Strong North Winds Support Migration into Minnesota

This past Sunday, the high temperature here was close to 90 degrees. But on Monday, a cold swept down from Saskatchewan and Manitoba, dropping temperatures dramatically and bringing a steady 25 mph northwest wind that gusted to 40. Steady north winds are forecast for the next couple of days—perfect conditions for a migration.

Migration Alert: Migration Begins as Northern Mississippi Flyway States Prepare for Opener

Game on! Large numbers of ducks and geese are staging on the northern prairies for their southbound migration. Early migrants, including blue-winged teal, pintails, and gadwalls, are heading south in increasing numbers. Waterfowl seasons in Prairie Canada have started as well, and hunters in several northern Mississippi Flyway states are watching the hours tick down to their regular-season opener. A check with hunters and waterfowl biologists should bolster their expectations for the kickoff this weekend.

DU TV Migration Report: Nebraska's Rainwater Basin

The DU TV crew is filming blue-winged teal hunts in Nebraska this week, and host Wade Bourne shares timely teal migration information on location.

Ten Classic Waterfowl Hunts

Visiting these iconic destinations should be on every waterfowler's bucket list

Tips for Opening Day Ducks

Here are some tips that will help increase your chances of bagging more waterfowl on opening day.

Waterfowler's Notebook: Reading Ducks

To be a good duck caller, you've got to be a good duck watcher," a veteran guide on Tennessee's famed Reelfoot Lake once told me. "You've got to pay close attention to the birds' reactions and determine whether you have to tease them in or demand that they come to the decoys." The following tips will help you master the art of reading ducks and adjust your calling to toll more birds into the decoys.

Ten Performance Tips for Retrievers

Here are 10 expert tips that will help your duck dog achieve peak performance during the hunting season.

Waterfowler's Notebook: Don't Go Deaf in the Duck Blind

Sound advice on how to protect your hearing while waterfowl hunting

Waterfowler's Notebook: Public Land Ethics

Follow these 10 rules to make waterfowling on public hunting areas a more enjoyable experience. By Wade Bourne.

Migration Alert: Mid-South Ducks Numbers Increase for Final Weekend

For hunters in the mid-Mississippi Alluvial Valley, the 2014–2015 duck season is set to go out with a bang, or lots of them! Hunting in this region ends at sunset on Jan. 25. According to reports from several mid-south areas, ducks are plentiful, and hunter success has increased significantly since warm southerly winds thawed out frozen waters in Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Missouri's Bootheel. Ducks have responded to this thaw by showing up in large numbers.

Migration Alert: Cold Snap Encouraging for Kentucky Waterfowlers

Hope springs eternal in the hearts of duck hunters, and Kentucky waterfowlers are hoping the Arctic front blowing through their state right now will bring more ducks and geese and better shooting than they've experienced so far this season.

Seven Tips for Late-Season Ducks

Hope may spring eternal in the hearts of duck and goose hunters, but enthusiasm often lags during the last few weeks of the season. These seven tips from expert waterfowlers will help you hone your hunting strategies to ensure that your season ends on a high note.

Waterfowler's Notebook: How to Stay Safe on the Water

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, hunters are involved in an average of 35 major boating accidents per year, resulting in 14 deaths and 27 serious injuries. Eighty percent of these reported deaths occurred by drowning, and 85 percent of the victims were not wearing a personal flotation device (PFD). Here are 10 tips for staying safe on the water.

Migration Alert: Missouri's Odd Migration Patterns May Change Soon

Weird! That's been the word used by biologists, management area personnel, and hunters to describe this year's duck migration and hunting season in Missouri. With the season nearly over in the north zone (ends December 23) and with ample hunting left in the middle zone (ends December 30) and the southern zone (ends January 25), there's a lot of head-scratching going on over how such a promising season has become so stagnant.

Migration Alert: Arkansas Hunting Slumps Due to Weather, Habitat

"Not very good," writes Keith Stephens regarding habitat conditions and hunter success this week in Arkansas. Stephens is a spokesman for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC). According to his latest Weekly Waterfowl Report, issued on December 10, hunting has been "spotty" in the second segment of Arkansas's duck season, which started Dec. 4 and runs through Dec. 23.

Migration Alert: Tennessee Duck Numbers High, Rain Needed

Tennessee waterfowl reports have been higher than in year's past, but the habitat is lacking. Significant rainfall expected this weekend will improve many state managed and private properties.

DU TV Migration Report: Southwest Louisiana 2014

Wade Bourne, co-host of DU TV is in southwest Louisiana with the DU TV and reports significant increase in duck numbers the last few days. Bourne expects those numbers to increase following this week's cold front.

Migration Alert: Michigan Hunting Slow; Cold Front Offers Hope

A strong cold front is expected to blow across Michigan late this week with brisk northwesterly winds and temperatures dropping into the 20s.

DU TV host wins Lifetime Achievement Award

Longtime Ducks Unlimited (DU) Magazine editor-at-large and DU TV co-host Wade Bourne was recently honored with the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association’s (SEOPA) Lifetime Achievement Award at the group’s annual convention.

Waterfowler's Notebook: Finesse Calling

Sometimes ducks respond best to aggressive calling, but at other times they work better when you use a little finesse. This is usually the case when there hasn't been an influx of new ducks for several days and local birds are decoy-shy from hunting pressure. It's also true when the weather is warm, the sky is gray, and the wind is calm—or under any combination of these factors. Such conditions can make ducks wary, and spooky birds tend to shy away from throw-the-kitchen-sink-at-'em calling. (By Wade Bourne)

Migration Alert: Canvasbacks Arriving in Wisconsin

The canvasbacks have arrived on the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. According to Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) biologist Brenda Kelly, the birds are rafting in big numbers on Pools 8 and 9 in the LaCrosse District of the refuge.

Migration Alert: Migration Stalls in Minnesota

Minnesota duck hunters are in need of a push of new birds! The early part of the season has been good overall, but now local ducks are getting stretched thin, and there have been few new arrivals from up north to take their places.

Field Notes: Jerk Cords

DU TV Host Wade Bourne explains how to rig a simple jerk cord to add motion to your decoy spread. Visit ducks.org/DUTV for other DU TV Better Waterfowling Tips and more.

Migration Alert: Mississippi Flyway Hunting and Habitat Preview

The stage appears set for one of the biggest waterfowl migrations in recent history, and hunters in the Mississippi Flyway are among those who stand to benefit the most.

Top Tactics for Early-Season Ducks

Here's advice from four experts on how to make your early-season outings more successful.

Waterfowler's Notebook: My Cornfield Duck Blind

Here's a quick-and-easy concealment system that you can set up almost anywhere. By Wade Bourne.

Waterfowler's Notebook: Anatomy of a Duck Call

It's not a stretch to compare a duck call to a traditional woodwind instrument such as a saxophone or clarinet. Musicians play these instruments by forcing air through a mouthpiece and across a reed, which vibrates to produce sound. Duck calls work in much the same way.

DU TV 2014 Teaser

Get ready for the 2014 season of DU TV. Watch this sneak peek to meet the hosts and see what else is in store this season.

Retriever Rehab

Expert advice on how you can get your older retriever back in top form in time for hunting season.

DU-TV Better Waterfowling Tip: Adding movement to a goose spread

Wade Bourne, DU magazine editor-at-large, explains different options for hunters to add movement to their goose spread.

Migration Alert: Mississippi Waterfowl Counts Reveal Impressive Numbers

Mississippi hunters pray for cold weather up north to push ducks into their state, and this year their prayers have been answered. A series of powerful cold fronts, hard freezes, and snow storms in the Midwest has triggered one of the biggest migrations of ducks into Mississippi in several years.

Migration Alert: 800k Mallards Counted in Arkansas

Warming temperatures, rain and thawing waters are changing the duck hunting picture in Arkansas.

Migration Alert: Waterfowl Numbers Increasing in Louisiana

Hunting resumes tomorrow (Saturday, Dec. 14) in Louisiana's East and Coastal Zones after a five-day split and a 12-day split, respectively. (Hunting in the West Zone has been open since Nov. 16 and closes Dec. 15 for a six-day break.) Biologists with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) are completing their December waterfowl survey as this report was being written.

Migration Alert: Winter Storm May Bring Fresh Ducks to Arkansas

All eyes north! That's where Arkansas duck hunters are looking as a massive winter storm blankets the state and sends temperatures plummeting. Anticipation of a new push of mallards from northern states is high, though they haven't arrived in appreciable numbers as of this writing.

Migration Alert: Mallards Funnel into Missouri

The mallards are in Missouri! That's the late word from waterfowl biologists and hunters. Harsh wintry weather to the north and powerful cold fronts have pushed peak numbers of mallards into this state.

Migration Alert: Michigan Waterfowl Numbers Increasing

A surge of cold air blew through this state this past week, and new ducks and geese arrived with it. Hunting action is improving, and numbers of waterfowl should increase to peak in the next couple of weeks.

Waterfowler's Notebook: Hunting Small-Water Divers

Going small for diving ducks can yield big results. By Wade Bourne.

Migration Alert: Wisconsin Waterfowl Numbers Increasing

In summary, diving ducks appear to be increasing in number on Lake Michigan and on the pools of the Upper Mississippi River. In the interior, local dabbling ducks (mallards, wood ducks, blue-winged teal) are providing the most action as hunters wait for colder weather to move new ducks into the state.

Migration Alert: Prospects Good for Minnesota Waterfowlers

It's certainly not a flood of new ducks, but ringnecks and other early migrants are beginning to show up in northern and central Minnesota, augmenting local populations of wood ducks, teal and other species that have been targeted by this state's hunters since the Sept. 21 opening day.

Better Waterfowling Tip - DU TV - Calling Multiple Duck Species

Target specific species by using different calling tactics. Wade Bourne explains how to catch the attention of pintails, wood ducks, and other.

Better Waterfowling Tip - DU TV - Big Water Hunting Tips and Gear

Hunting big water may be daunting for those unaccustomed to the challenge. Wade Bourne recommends facing these challenges, and he provides a few tips to help you be successful.

Better Waterfowling Tip - DU TV - Creating a Temporary Blind

Building a temporary blind is an art. Wade Bourne explains how he uses some pre-planning to create a mobile, quality duck blind for any situation.

Better Waterfowling Tip - DU TV - Adding Movement to a Goose Spread

There are multiple options for adding movement to a goose spread. Wade Bourne explains different ways to make your goose spread come to life.

Better Waterfowling Tip - DU TV - Using Competition Calling Techniques

While competition style duck calling is much different than hunting-oriented calling, Wade Bourne explains a situation when he uses this technique.

Opening Day Mistakes

Following are some of the most common opening day mistakes committed by waterfowlers, and ways to avoid making them.

Waterfowler's Notebook: Keeping Legal

The following advice will help waterfowlers stay on the right side of the law this season. By Wade Bourne.

Better Waterfowling Tip - DU TV - Introducing a Young Hunter

Introducing kids to waterfowl hunting can be difficult due to harsh conditions and migration fluctuations. Here's a few tips to help improve a hunter's first experience.

Better Waterfowling Tip - DU TV - How to Scout Effectively

Scouting tactics are often overlooked, but being able to effectively scout, and have the correct tools may improve your odds of having a great hunt.

Waterfowler's Notebook: Seven Essential Skills for Waterfowlers

All duck and goose hunting know-how begins with these fundamentals

Waterfowler's Notebook: Hunting Spring Snows

Expert advice on how to decoy more light geese during the special conservation season

Keep It Simple

Following are eight ways in which I've simplified my waterfowling and also increased my enjoyment of the sport by planning better, hunting smarter, and fine-tuning my priorities.

Migration Alert: Final Duck Hunting Weekend for Southern Mississippi Flyway States

Hunters have until sunset on January 27 to pursue ducks in the last few states in the lower Mississippi River Valley where the general waterfowl season is still open.

Waterfowler's Notebook: Patterning Late-Season Ducks

Biology plays a bigger role in duck hunting than most hunters realize. Duck behavior is governed by instincts such as feeding, mating, and surviving. In winter, for example, ducks spend much of their time seeking mates for the spring breeding season and building energy reserves for the coming northbound migration.

DU-TV Better Waterfowling Tip: Preparing for a Hunting Trip

Wade Bourne offers some tips for preparing for a hutning trip. There's a long list of must-have items for any hunting trip, and Bourne explains the reasons why you will need maps, GPS, regulatiosn books, and much more.

Calling All Geese

Five experts share their secrets for calling Canadas, cacklers, whitefronts, light geese and brant

Duck Hunting without the Crowds

A sampling of public waterfowling hotspots often overlooked by hunters

Migration Alert: Wisconsin waterfowl numbers increasing as cold front approaches

The outlook for waterfowl hunting in Wisconsin is improving as duck and goose numbers continue to build along the Mississippi River and on the famed Horicon Marsh.

DU-TV Tip: Full-Body Decoys

How to utilize full-body decoys to add realism

Going Public

Many of the author's favorite waterfowling memories were made on public lands, open to one and all.

Waterfowler's Notebook: King Can

The canvasback is a symbol of the struggles and triumphs of waterfowl conservation

Lightweight Zipper Waders are the Real Deal

"Zipper waders? I'd be afraid they'd leak."

Five Small Spreads for Ducks

Here's how to make the most of a limited number of decoys in five common waterfowl habitats. Illustrations by Kevin Hand.

Bayou Bluewings

An unforgettable teal-hunting adventure in the heart of Cajun country

My Ultimate Duck Blind: Illustrations

After years of trial and error, DU Magazine author Wade Bourne finally built what he believes is the perfect duck blind. Here's how he did it.

My Ultimate Duck Blind

Following is an overview of our blind, including where we built it, its design and dimensions, the materials we used, our camouflage scheme, and other special features.

Video: My Ultimate Duck Blind

After years of trial and error, DU Magazine author Wade Bourne finally built what he believes is the perfect duck blind.

Five Tactics for Late-Season Ducks

It's late season, when the sport's true diehards are like NFL linemen in the playoffs. Veteran waterfowlers share 5 expert tactics to help successfully end the season.

Migration Alert: Oklahoma habitat, duck numbers look promising

Dec. 6, 2011: Current weather conditions are good for hunting ducks in Oklahoma – highs in the 40s and lows around 20.

Scientific Waterfowling

Following are interviews with four preeminent waterfowl researchers. We can learn a lot from these experts, not only about how ducks react to their environment, but also how to apply this knowledge for better hunting success.

The Highball Duck Call

Waterfowl hunters should use the highball selectively—at certain times and in certain places. Listen as Wade Bourne gives a few tips on how to use this call more effectively.

Shotgunner's Guide to Waterfowling

Here's how to consistently hit the most common shots in duck and goose hunting

Waterfowler's Notebook: Keeping a Hunting Journal

Wade Bourne shares insights into the benefits of keeping a hunting journal and shares tips on how you can preserve your own memories from the field.

Strategies for Public Land

Waterfowl hunting on public land can be either a dream or a nightmare, as two hunts that I experienced several years ago on a local wildlife management area (WMA) clearly illustrate.

Winter Duck Hunting Strategies

Deep winter offers duck hunters both challenge and opportunity. The late season cuts hunters little slack, but the last few weeks can also provide some of the best shooting of the year.

Waterfowler's Notebook: Flat-Out Waterfowling

As waterfowl have adapted to these open environments, hunters have devised ways to hunt them there. Perhaps the most effective of these innovations are layout blinds and layout boats. These horizontal hideouts can be carried, poled, or motored anywhere ducks and geese are working.

Going Public for Ducks

How to make the most of public hunting opportunities in your area

7 Tips for Late-Season Ducks

It's the fourth quarter and the game is wearing long. Energy levels are waning, equipment is broken, but the outcome of the "contest" still hangs in the balance. A good final effort can tilt the game in your favor, and fortunately, there's plenty of time left to build on the score.

Create a Landing Zone for Ducks

Use specific decoy patterns to get duck to land on the 'X'.

Outfitting a Duck Boat

Safety needs to remain a number one concern when duck hunting from a boat. This checklist can help keep you safe and offers some handy hunting suggestions.

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

When Silence is Golden

In some situations, the silent treatment will help you decoy more ducks.

Duck Hunting on a Budget

Here's how cost-conscious waterfowlers can enjoy high-quality hunting without breaking the bank.

The Double-Cluck

Knowing how to use this highly effective call will help you decoy more Canada geese.

Season Kickoff: Teal Time

September teal hunting is a great way to kick off the waterfowl season.

Point-Blank Waterfowling

These tips will help you get more birds feet down over the decoys.

Choosing a Duck Call

Personal preference is important when buying a new call, but ultimately, hunters should make a selection based on what they need as well as what strikes their fancy.

Mega Decoy Rigs

In the right situation, a massive decoy spread can be especially effective.

Late-Season Decoy Spreads

Overcoming the challenges of winter waterfowling requires both realism and creativity.

Calling the Shot

These tips will help avoid confusion while maximizing shooting opportunities.

Warm-Weather Duck Hunting Tips

Ducks and geese change their habits during warm spells, and so should hunters.

Hunting a Bad Wind

By making the right adjustments, you can overcome the challenges posed by an unfavorable wind direction.

10 Shooting Tips for Waterfowl

Wade Bourne shares 10 never-fail tips for improving your shot and creating a more enjoyable hunting experience all season long.

The X Factor

It's a dilemma nearly every public-land waterfowler experiences. Ducks or geese are piling into a particular spot, and it's not where you are. Flock after flock circles and pitches in as you watch and wish.

Tuning a Duck Call

Wade Bourne explains how to make small changes to improve the sound of your single- or double-reed duck call.

Take a New Hunter

Help build a strong future for waterfowling and conservation by recruiting a new hunter into the fold.

Setting the Hunting Season

An in-depth look at the complex, science-based process that safeguards waterfowl populations while maximizing hunting opportunity.

Reading Ducks

Wade Bourne draws on the knowledge of seasoned callers to teach you how to "read the ducks" and improve your calling technique.

Simple and Dependable Decoy Rigs

Dependability and simplicity are key considerations when rigging decoys.

Duck Calling Video: The Feeding Chuckle

Wade Bourne demonstrates and explains the feeding chuckle, a sometimes touchy calling technique that takes time to master.

Ground Game - Layout Blinds

Lightweight, portable layout blinds provide effective concealment in a variety of waterfowl habitats.

The Minimalists

By sticking to the basics, these waterfowlers have found success without spending a fortune on gear and gadgets.

Tips for Using Full-Body Field Decoys

These lifelike decoys are highly effective in a variety of hunting environments

10 Tips from Top Callers

Expert waterfowlers share their secrets for calling late-season ducks and geese.

The Single-Quack Series

This finishing call often works like a homing beacon for ducks.

Duck Hunters Rainbow

Major rain events can lead to some of the season’s best hunting.

Hunting Midday Ducks

If you routinely head in by midmorning, you might be missing out on some great hunting.

Tips for Hunting-shy Ducks

Finding Hidden Duck Holes

September Teal: Mayhem in the Marsh

Duck Hunting in Flooded Grainfields

Flooded grainfields are consistently among the most productive waterfowling hotspots

Four Steps to Better Shooting

Improve your shooting with these steps from Scott Robertson of Elm Fork Shooting Sports in Dallas.

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