Mother nature rearing its ugly head shouldn’t spell the end of your duck hunting season. With some cold weather hunting gear and a large thermos of coffee you shouldn’t have anything to worry about. In fact extreme weather conditions often increase waterfowl activity. Hunters who understand how the cold affects their game and know their basic duck hunting calls stand to outperform the competition. Here are a few cold weather duck hunting tips that should give you a slight edge this hunting season.
Duck Hunting Tips For Cold Weather
Look For Open Water
Water beginning to freeze doesn’t mean the end of duck hunting. You’re actually able to pinpoint exactly where the ducks are going to congregate. Ducks will start to go wherever the water freezes last. If all but one pond on your hunting land freezes you know exactly where the best hunting spot is. The only problem with this thinking is that on public land hunters will start to flock there as well. So unless you have private property you’re going to have to do a little bit of scouting beforehand to keep track of the last freezing point. You’ll see the same trends come up year after year so make sure you take a note of the time of year everything tends to freeze.
If you can’t find any private open water to hunt on you can make your own. Luckily there are a few easy tricks you can employ to break up the ice enough to call in the ducks. By far the easiest method is to use a boat to crunch up the ice. The only real time to try this is if you’re working from a boat blind. All you need to do is carve out a big enough area on the boat launch to get your boat in then slowly crunch through the ice to carve out a hole. The hole needs to be about 50 yards square which will take 45 minutes to an hour. Then slowly carve out the perimeter until you have a big enough area to set up your decoys and hunt from. As hard as it sounds just ignore all the ducks that fly by until your work is done. With little access to open water they’ll come back in no time.
Once you have a big enough hole you’ll want to setup your blind and decoys near the perimeter. If you already have a boat all you’ll need is a boat blind. If you don’t already have a boat blind consider the Beavertail Boat Blind. The Beavertail boat blind comes in all shapes and sizes and is very easy to setup. The Beavertail blind is like a hard boat blind in an easy to setup package.
Try Using an Ice Eliminator
If you don’t have a boat you can also try working a pond around the frozen fallen timbers. In this area you’ll want to try and open up a small area around the perimeter. Break off a large chunk of ice and use that to slowly open up a decent sized hole. Simply push the large chunk of ice up underneath the surrounding ice and it should lift up and break off another chunk. Once you have a decent spot opened up put out 10-15 decoys and setup a jerk string to stir up the water a little bit.
Once you get a decent sized area opened up you can try using an ice eliminator. Ice eliminators are electric pumps that are designed to keep ice from forming around boat slips and fish ponds. Once you have a little area opened up you can use an ice eliminator to keep water open in front of your blind. They work by continuously pumping water below the surface to break up the ice formation. My favorite ice eliminator is the Hidgon Ice Blaster which is a battery powered unit. If you have access to power try the Kasco De-Icer. You’ll want to set this up the night before your hunt so ducks will come in and feed. If they’re on your pond at night they’ll be back the next day.
You can also try attaching a small cheap electric trolling motor (like this one) to a fixed mount on the outside of your blind. The best part of this solution is your trolling motor will run off a small battery and should clear out a large chunk of ice. Ice doesn’t have to be the enemy. When you can control the location of open water, you can control where the waterfowl is going to land. Give them a big enough plot to land and you’ll have a fun day hunting.
Keep an Eye on The Weather
Large waterfowl like Canadian Geese and mallards will be able to stay in the north longer. Their larger bodies insulate them enough to withstand colder temperatures enough to extend the hunting season. Eventually the frozen lakes will make them run out of food and water. So even the biggest birds will inevitably fly south for the winter. So your best bet is going to be to keep track of the weather conditions. With modern weather reports there’s no reason not to stay on top of the changing weather. Just keep track of dips in the temperature and wind patterns that will make birds fly away to new feeding areas. When you see these dips remember that waterfowl will need a feeding area to continue flying south. So your prime hunting focus should be on finding prime feeding areas to hunt on.
Try To Change Up The Calling Pattern
As important as it is to learn the beginner duck calls, later on in the season game birds tend to get call shy. So you’re going to have to work even harder to call birds into your hunting area. Try increasing the aggressiveness into your calling patterns. Late in the season an aggressive calling pattern might be all you need to bring them back. Then once they start to turn around try and follow it up with a nice greeting call. There’s a fine line between being aggressive and scaring them away. If that doesn’t work you may just need to tune your duck call.With practice you’ll be able to call them in like a pro.
Properly Manage Your Property
If you’re lucky enough to hunt on your own property you’re going to need to manage the land to entice waterfowl to roost. If you lease your property to hunt deer there’s even more of a reason to attract ducks. You’ll be able to lease out your property for bucks in the fall and ducks and geese in the winter. A two-season hunting property will be worth a lot more for the property manager.
It really isn’t that difficult to draw migratory birds into your property. It might be a little harder than keeping bucks on your property but it’s also extremely rewarding. You’ll be able to increase your property value while getting the opportunity to enjoy some great waterfowl hunting.
Building a Proper Roost
- Choose an isolated area
- Dig Shallow Ponds that are less than a few feet deep.
- Provide cover for feeding and Nesting
- Control Plants that don’t attract ducks
- Reduce predators
- Don’t move logs and timber
- Control hunting on your property
If you build a proper roost game will come year after year. When the temperature gets cold ducks and geese will stay in their roost longer. They’ll stay longer in the morning and return earlier at night. Always make sure you hunt downwind from your roost so that the majority of the birds won’t know you’re there. Hunting upwind will end your day before you’ve even started.
Make Sure You Have Patience in the cold
This late in the winter season if you don’t have a lot of patience you’ll go home empty handed. Late season birds have a tendency to spend a lot of time resting. When they’re awake they often just wait until the sun comes out and loosens the ground. It’ll be easier for them to find worms and grain that is left behind. You’ll probably have to wait until sometime in the afternoon for the birds to actually start showing up. If you wait and properly scouted out the area the waterfowl will most likely eventually come. With patience and employing the rest of the above steps you should have a very successful hunting season.