Each year, I hope for freezing temperatures and snow pack in the central United States and some cold weather down here on the coast with the belief that it is the magic potion that will spell ducks in the marsh. Well, we got it this year, but it has not produced the results in the duck blind I expected. The temperatures have been below freezing in most of the central United States for a few weeks now, and snow has been aplenty. Yet, I stand in the blind scratching my head. And judging by the reports I am reading, there are a lot of hunters in the blind who, like me, look like they need treatments for head lice.
One weather factor that I have not been able to catch up to yet in the marsh is a steady wind. I have usually had plenty of duck movement and good success when there is a steady wind of at least 10 mph. A north wind is my favorite, but any direction is better than none. Of all the weather factors, I have found that wind is the most significant one that keeps ducks moving.
This year, I have not been able to make a hunt on a windy day. I have had a breeze here or there, but for the most part, the days that I have hunted have been pretty calm. And my duck numbers show that. I hope to be in the marsh just as a front moves through or right after, because that produces consistent wind and most often success in the blind.
Another weather oddity that I have seen this year is that the cold fronts we have gotten have been from the west coast rather than Canada. The fronts have originated in southern California and pushed across New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona and Texas to get to Louisiana. Sure, they have brought cool weather, but these states are not known to hold any real numbers of ducks so there has not been much duck movement coming in with these fronts. I really believe now that the ducks can tolerate a good bit of cold, freezing conditions, and they really rely on the strong front movement to help them travel distances. Without strong fronts coming north to south, I believe there are many ducks still tolerating the cold conditions in north Arkansas, Missouri and other central states. A strong north to south front may help us tremendously, but I am not sure if we will get one in this strange weather year.
Add in the high water and we have too many strikes against us this year. I did not think it would be as much of a problem in the marsh, but high water seems to have affected us as well. There have only been two hunts where I have not been standing in water in the blind this year. Many years, the last two weeks of the season has us fighting pure mud in practically dry marshes, but not this year. Maybe the ducks are content not to even come down to the marsh if there are enough rice fields and crawfish ponds to hold them off the coast.
During most of my hunts, I have seen the teal working the marsh just after sunrise. That is the most consistent ducks to predict. It seems that no matter what the temperature or weather conditions, you can bet your last dollar in the marsh that some teal will fly at first light. But, after that, there has been practically no big ducks to follow them up. That is the missing element in my hunts: the big ducks to close out the hunts.
Even worse, this Saturday's hunt was very different from most this season. While we did have a few groups of teal moving early, they seemed to avoid our blind. There were shots at on other ponds on our lease, but Saturday was not our day as the ducks seemed to flare at the edges of our pond. We saw a few big ducks, and they too would make one pass and then move on. We were fortunate to have one pair of wood ducks pass over the decoys and we dropped them both, but other than that the ducks seemed to have our number that day.
That tells me that these ducks have been here a while and are getting accustomed to the duck blinds. It is now time to make the late-season adjustments for the local ducks, such as moving blind locations if you can, changing the decoy spread, thinning out the decoys and backing off on calling. Unless a large push of new ducks come in, the rest of this season looks to be a tough one.
I hope you shoot straight and shoot often!