PERFECT WEATHER by Brad Fenson
Here’s a secret weapon that doesn’t involve buying any gadgets. Most of us know this but feel powerless to do anything about. I mean, if our scheduled Saturday hunt coincides with 80 degrees and no breeze, what are we going to do? Well, how about rearranging our lives to be more flexible? Trade your boss a Saturday off for a Thursday or Friday.
Even better is flex scheduling. Arrange work so you can escape nearly any day and then pick a good one based on weather forecasts. Low pressure, snow, wind. You know the right conditions.
One job I worked for three years offered flex scheduling. We could take off a half day or even a few hours as long as we made them up another day. One blustery November Wednesday, with a blizzard just moving in, my hunting buddy Harvey sidled into my workspace and hissed, “Mallards on the deck.” I quietly checked out and the two of us drove to a “pass” where wind-blown mallards flew low from a roosting lake to bordering cornfields. At 3 p.m. with 25-mph winds and snow beginning to fall, they nearly took our caps off as they passed. We limited in less than an hour.
Don’t assume bad weather is always best. This harks back to scouting and paying attention.
Don’t Neglect to Work on Perfect Shots
Here’s the tactic I really need to work on: SHOOTING WELL! Given the few good shooting days we are lucky enough to get, it’s a waste to screw them up with poor shooting. Invest time and shells in honing your skills on clays thrown at a variety of angles, but especially high, crossing, and incoming. Use your waterfowl gun, not your sporting clays gun. Light target loads are good enough, especially if muzzle velocity nearly matches your field loads.
Over the years, Harvey noticed that calm, sunny days in mid-November were actually more productive for decoying mallards than windy, cloudy ones. As soon as we saw or heard of big migrating flocks moving in, we hit his proven blind location on a public hunting area midmorning, midweek, in bluebird conditions. Conventional wisdom kept most competition home waiting for “duck” weather. Harvey and I napped in the boat until about 9:30 a.m. “Should start anytime now,” Harvey said. Within 10 minutes flickering flocks appeared near the stratosphere. Harvey hit a loud, long high-ball and the flickers started spiraling down—right into our laps. The harsh light gave us extra shadows in which to hide.
“What’s the deal?” I asked when the smoke settled.
“They’re out feeding at dawn,” Harvey explained. “And some are just coming in after an all-night migration flight.”
Perfect weather. Perfect “scouting.” Perfect timing.
Duck and goose hunting is regulated into fairly tight seasons. Nevertheless, within the framework of open dates, not all seasons are created equal.
Most of us see an advantage in opening weekend when we hope to find young, locally bred ducks as yet unaccustomed to hunting pressure. Often still in pin feathers, they don’t look like much, but they sure taste like much. And they decoy as if mama abandoned them too early. But after a day or two of noisy harassment, they wise up. Rather than burn vacation days on a low-percentage hunt, why not wait until the first waves of northern migrants come in? Even though they’ve been called, decoyed, and shot at from the Arctic to Arkansas, they’ll be most accommodating on their first day or two in your neck of the woods. And they’ll be sorting out which wet areas are the safest on which to sit, so flights are frequent and decoying productive.
In most areas, these migration flights are fairly consistent unless unusually warm weather keeps water open farther north. Changes in forage crops are more gradual. Most of the northern “short stopping” was established years ago when vast new reservoirs and irrigated corn fields were put in. But if these get iced over or snowed over, new birds should be moving your way. Keep your finger on the migration news.
A good way to figure out when most northern flights typically reach your area is to consult your state fish-and-game agency. They usually have statistics on average arrival dates for ducks and geese. These can vary by a week, sometimes several weeks due to extreme weather, but they offer a reasonable starting point for planning your hunting dates long term.
Ever since Federal started up its manufacturing efforts in 1922, shotshells were always its’ bread and butter. Then during its 100-year lifespan, Federal eventually, and meticulously, developed a shotshell for every situation and activity.
"At the Saskatchewan Goose Company, we want to ensure that our guests have the best hunting experience possible, and we do everything we can to ensure this happens. Obviously, we can't control the weather or birds, but what separates us from the other guys is the amount of work my family and workers put into making this a trip of a lifetime."
This past year we spent a week in Montana and Wyoming and the temperatures were brutal. We field hunted and we hunted on a riverbank in -10 Degrees. The first key is for you, your friends, and the dog to stay warm so you make it through the hunt with no issues...