How To Bag Late Season Mallards

Now that the Texas duck season is winding down, we should start to see more and more yellow beaks showing up.  There is nothing like watching big ol fat greenheads cupped up against a bright blue sky.  As we sit in the marsh listening to feeding chuckles from passing hens and that slow drab call of a mallard drake, we simply can’t wait for shooting light.  For most of us puddle duck hunters our early season straps are full of gadwall, teal, woodies, pintails and the occasional mallard.

Now that Christmas is gone, we should start to see our straps filling up with a few more green tops and a few less gadwalls.

Photo courtesy Aron Boyce

There are lots of factors to consider when you are targeting migrating mallards as opposed to birds that have been here a while.  I will throw out some tactics that have worked well for me.

  • Color- When mallards are my primary focus, I will ditch my gadwall, teal and widgeon decoys and opt for more mallard drakes, pintail drakes and black ducks with a few hens mixed in. I feel as though in most cases the drakes and black ducks are far more visible and gives my spread more drawing power.   http://www.avian-x.com/
  • Goose Decoys- I will put out Canada goose decoys 90% of the time I am duck hunting. Just about everywhere in the Country has Canada geese of some sort.  These decoys not only give your spread some confidence, but also a much larger profile while adding more black and white contrast to your spread.  It is a good idea to have a goose call handy as well to give you that much more realism and a better chance to kill some geese if some do happen to fly your way.
  • Spinners- Love um or hate um, mid-season mallards are suckers for spinning wing decoys. I personally like the lucky ducks that have a rechargeable battery integrated into the decoy and a bungee stake system that is really durable, and they are remote controlled.   I typically run 2 spinners in a spread of 4-6 dozen floaters.  I try and put them slightly upwind in the decoys in case birds don’t finish right over them, they are still in range. http://www.luckyduck.com/
  • Calling- Calling is a day to day chess match with the ducks. Don’t get lulled into the same cadence, the same routine and the same volume.  I will mix it up and see if the birds respond favorably or not.  If it is working, keep it up.  If not, then by all means put down your calls.  Don’t get caught up into calling at the tail tips and hit um on the corners as the old school mentality goes.  A good single reed duck call like the new Zink Greentop Rocker is just what the Dr. ordered for these mid-season mallards.  Ducks are hunted harder and harder and your calling needs to be ever evolving as well.  http://www.zinkcalls.com/
  • Feed or Loaf- You need to decide if you are hunting a feeding area or a loafing area. These areas may look similar, but are very different in reality.  Typically mallards will feed early in the morning, then head to another area to loaf in.  Now I am not talking about dry feeds, this is a totally different subject.  When ducks are coming to an area to loaf, they are looking to sit down and basically relax or court hens.  The loafing hunt will usually be better mid-morning rather than a daylight barrel burner that you may experience on a feed shoot.
  • Head on a swivel- Mallards this time of year are notorious for falling out of the stratosphere without a cause, pause or hesitation. Keep your eyes peeled as the birds may come and go before you know it if you are not ready.  If you are hunting with other people, try not to all look in the exact same direction, but try and cover your entire spread rather than just the kill hole.

Well, I hope some of these tips will help you to put a few more orange feet on your duck tote this season.  Duck season is short, so hunt when you can and hunt when you can’t.

Shane Smith

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