All hunters I know get very excited when they see a big cold front coming in with hard north winds and temperatures plummeting below freezing. Waterfowl will be on the move when the mercury dips down and you should too. Harsh cold fronts usually produce the hottest action of the year. The stale local birds you have been hunting will be gone and those much awaited “New Ducks” are here in full force. These “New Ducks” will respond better to calling and not be as decoy shy as the stale local birds you were hunting. So get out your cold weather gear and get ready for possibly the best waterfowling action of the season.
I am going to go over a few things to make sure when the ice starts to form and the snow starts to fall, you are prepared to fill your strap with limits of fat ducks and geese.
- Dress Right- You should always start with a base layer of moisture wicking clothes, such as Under Armour base layer to keep you warm without making you sweat.
- Layer Up- The days of wearing overalls and a thick Carhartt jacket have come and gone. Hunting clothes have come a long ways in the last 30 years. After your base layer, try fleece or a wool pullover that will keep your core warm. Browning, Banded and Drake all make clothing to fit the bill of a mid-layer garment.
- Outer Jacket- Your outer jacket should be waterproof and windproof and not be too bulky to shoot. I like to use a Browning 4 N 1 jacket that has a zip in liner and loaded with fleece lined hand warming pockets.
- Gloves- Make sure you have several pair of good gloves with you. At least one pair should be just for picking up decoys and waterproof.
- Extra Gun- The slightest amount of water can get in to your shotguns action, and it is worthless. Take care to keep water out of your gun and it will reward you. So, I always carry an extra gun in case mine gets iced up.
- Fire Starter- I always carry a fire starter kit in my boat in case the engine dies and we don’t have cell service and have to stay out in the elements for an extended period of time.
- Community Holes- The new ducks that are arriving will hit the big community holes first. They are community holes for a reason, when new ducks get here, they don’t know it is a pressured area. Don’t tuck yourself in too deep. Instead try and hunt main points and feeding areas for the incoming birds seeking shelter from the freezing conditions they are fleeing from.
- Crank the Call- This is the time of year that all mallard hunters love, because the ducks seem to be mesmerized by your calls and come in cupped and committed without a cause, pause or hesitation. Call often, and if it’s working don’t quit until you are taking your gun off safety.
- Full Body Decoys- This is a great time to put your full body decoys on the ice and give the birds and ultra realistic looking spread that will set you apart from the masses.
- No Motion- Yup, I said it- no motion. If it is freezing, your jerk string rig will have ice all over your decoys making them look like floating mirrors out there. If you use wonder ducks, more of the same as they will be encased in ice. I try and deploy a very large spread and let my calling and decoys do the work.
When you see the mercury starting to fall with ice and snow in the forecast, get prepared for the hottest action of the season. Don’t be unprepared for the elements and miss out on the bounty of dead birds for the freezer.
Remember- Fortuna Paratus Remunerat
Fortune Favors the Prepared