Late season waterfowl hunting can be tough. As we enter the homestretch of the duck and goose seasons across the US, the birds are educated! Especially in our part of Illinois due to the lack of new birds in close to a month. The few birds we do have around have seen every spread known to man and heard every note a duck call can produce. They've been hunted hard since September in Canada. Here are a few tricks that we've used over the past few years to entice leery late season waterfowl into our spread. Hopefully this will improve our and your late season waterfowl hunting.
1. Concealment is key
It doesn't matter what your spread looks like or how great of a caller you are if you aren't hidden. The birds have seen if all for four months. On opening day you can catch them by surprise. At this point in the season it's time to for extra
effort to get hidden. Re-mud your layout blinds, add more grass, and spend extra time grabbing field litter from the location your hunting to make your blinds disappear. We've also gone as far as digging holes to set blinds in if the ground is
suitable. When birds appear, make sure everyone is fully inside their blinds no matter how tempting it is to peer out to find the birds. Just like layout blinds, pits need re-worked too. You've walked into and out of them dozens if not hundreds
of times so far this season. The brush you had around your pit has been matted down and muddy ground has been exposed. Gather some more stalks or stubble to sprinkle around the pit. Throw some extra decoys around the holes and wear a
facemask and gloves to stay hidden while waterfowl hunting.
Extra stalks on the blind….
2. Change the decoy spread for better waterfowl hunting
On days we feel we will pick up migrating waterfowl, we will use every decoy we can find in order to work new birds to the area. We'll stick with that spread for a few days after the birds arrive, but after that we'll change it up to a smaller
spread, especially if other setup in the area continue to run large spreads. The Fowled Reality crew likes to be different! There are days where refuge spreads work awesome, other days it doesn't matter if you have 500 decoys out there.
3. Adapt to the conditions
Late season waterfowl hunting is usually characterized by cold weather…..except for this year. When the snow and ice is on, sleep shells are dynamite! It's also beneficial to use shells or full bodies placed directly on the snow. As soon as a bird lands, it'll lay down to melt the snow to gain access to food. We'll mix in some full bodies on stands, but the majority of our decoys will be placed directly on the snow/ice. We'll also kick the snow around the spread to make it appear as though birds have been moving around feeding in the field. We'll try to disturb the field the most in the kill hole to trick the birds into thinking that is the best spot to feed. During the coldest days, we'll pack the decoys tight, but on warmer days, we'll space them out more.
Shell and sleeper shell decoys on snow
4. Use different calling
Waterfowl hunting this late in the season the birds have heard it all. Give them something you think they might not have heard yet. This might mean giving them nothing at all. We like to let the birds approach and see how they react. If they start working
the decoy spread on their own, then we'll let them do their thing. If they fly by without looking, then we'll start calling to them. If you're lucky enough to get them turned, pay attention to what note they turned on and keep hitting them with it.
If you call at them upon first seeing them, keep it subtle. So many hunters throw everything but the kitchen sink at them. From high balls, to comeback calls and spit notes. These birds are used to it all. Throw a single quack or goosey cluck
at them and see how hey react. If they turn, stay on them what you've been doing. Pay close attention to the birds and read them. Now is the most important time of year to pay attention to what they're doing. The ducks and geese will tell you
what they want to hear or if they want nothing.
Try like heck to find where birds are feeding and not being pressured. Spend the drive time looking for out of the way places where birds have got comfortable. You're kind of looking for a needle in a haystack at this point in the year, but
it can always be done. If you find a spot like this and gain access, make sure to go the extra mile to get concealed. You know they birds are coming and you have to make it look like no one is there waiting on them. If we're lucky enough to find a spot
like this, we'll go with a small, realistic spread of fully flocked decoys to help conceal the blinds, spend and extra hour brushing blinds, and call sparingly. Make it look like a few early arrivers are already in the field and let the rest of them
drop in. If you can't get access, but have found a good number of birds, find the flight line they're using, get hidden and show them everything. They're used to feeding somewhere else, but your trying to get them to go elsewhere. If your on
the flight line, they'll at least fly over so you have to get them to stop.
For more waterfowl hunting tips check out our other posts.