Seven tips for late-season waterfowl success

This is it! We are in the heart of the second split; it is time to pull out all the stops. Nothing can be overlooked. I know y’ll are tired of the mud and low water, tired of being wet and cold, tired of having your birds flare and just plain tired of going duck hunting.

But guys, this is what it is all about. This is when we actually have the best duck hunting in the country – there are plenty of us who would argue the best duck hunting in the world.

You have to stay in the game because this is when the game gets good, for, this is what it is all about. The game gets hard, extremely hard. I will be the first to admit it, but when you are successful at this time of year and you can fool these ducks in January, you are playing the game correctly and, oh my goodness, it is so satisfying.

This is Louisiana duck hunting at its finest! This is when we separate the men from the boys! I love January duck hunting; the quitters have put their guns away, they are done, they are tired, worn out and just don’t have the fire in order to push forward. The marsh has beaten them down!

Never quit, you must pull it from down deep, reach in there and become “one” with the marsh!

I have found that it helps me to consider it a game. Study your opponent, think like your opponent, put yourself in your opponent’s shoes, or should I say, your opponent’s feathers. Once you have done that, crush him, pound him, take them to school and be victorious.

Consider this: I know you have heard it before or something similar, but we are at the end of the flyway, the birds have seen every setup, every decoy and every blind from Canada to Venice. Not to mention watching others in their flock drop like rocks at the same time they hear a loud bang coming out of these precarious-looking setups. They are extremely educated birds by the time they get to South Louisiana and extremely skittish. They are looking for us hunters, they know we are there.

So what do I do? I do everything different. By that I mean do not do what you did in the first split. We really have to think out of the box, big time. In order to achieve this, try some of these tips:

1) Your blind is in absolutely tip-top shape. By that, I mean you are actually having trouble seeing out of it. By only using the exact grass that is around you, add a roof of some sort, or pull the grass and crack or bend it so that it’s over your head.

I know it’s uncomfortable and unfamiliar, but you cannot let the high-flying birds look down and see you sitting there plain as day as they circle over your head.

I know you don’t want to hear this, but these days, sink a pit. Yes, even in the marsh. You can also achieve this scenario by using a boat blind. You may think I am crazy, but you will get used to it; at first it is extremely uncomfortable to hunt out of a blind that you have trouble seeing out of.

When you are blinded down very well and do not move, these extremely educated birds will come in. On the other hand, if you are doing the opposite and using store-bought fast grass in the heart of the second split, go ahead and burn your blind and call it a season.

2) I know a lot of guys start dabbling with using very small decoy numbers, twos and threes or maybe just seven. I do also, to an extent, if I feel it.

But, it’s a catch 22: If you don’t have enough out there, the birds don’t see your spread and if you have too many, they flare. I stick with about 11 to 18, depending on the vibe I get when I am setting up.

No, I cannot explain the “vibe.” It’s just something I feel. But I really go the reverse on my setup. Call me crazy, but I try to set up with the wind in my face for late-season ducks. That is thinking out the box! By doing that, the birds come in from behind you, and they actually come over your head cupped as they approach your dekes.

Think about it, they are always looking for the blind in front of the decoys when they light. If your blind isn’t there, you are not there either; they aren’t even considering that you would set up that way. So, the birds swing in over your head cupped and fly overhead while approaching the decoys. When they are 2 feet above the water you shoot their backs, the survivors from the first volley flap their wings as they flare, the wind grabs and pushes them closer to you as you are shooting shot No. 2 and shot No. 3 . They can’t figure out where you are shooting from. It just happens too fast for them. It makes for easy shots on two and three.

That is schooling late-season birds at its finest! It is truly amazing how well this works, especially in a 12 to 20 mph wind. I know that’s blowing your mind, but try it! It really works incredibly well.

3) Get a brush, some joy liquid, a water hose and take the 10 minutes to clean the mud off your decoys. Make them look their best again. It makes a difference.

4)  I just started doing this a few of years ago, and some may think it is lazy. But, it’s great if you have a boat blind or your hunting out of the grass. It saves you from setting up again after you realize you aren’t in the zone. Just wait till the sun starts coming up a little. Get in the area, watch for 10 minutes, and when you see two to three flights do the same thing and land in the same spot, go in that zone and deploy the next two tips!

It is so important to move if you aren’t producing birds. I find it is very rare for everything to change in your favor if you do nothing but sit and change nothing. If the birds are flaring or just don’t seem to be coming in properly, move the dekes around. You have to rely on your “vibe.” Once again, I can’t explain it, in this situation; you have to feel the “vibe.”

5) Stay late if you don’t have a limit! You would be amazed at how well the birds fly and decoy after 9 a.m. and into 11 a.m. At this time, hunters are leaving and jumping resting birds, and those birds are now on the move.

My theory is, when that sun gets higher and hits those decoys, the high-flying birds can see them better. This is when they cup from 375 yards out and come in on a string! There is nothing better than high-flying birds on a string for those 20 seconds as they descend into your spread.

Words cannot explain the emotions and anticipation racing through my body!

6) As the season starts coming to an end, it is time (if you have the gun that will accept them and a few extra bucks) to go to 3 ½-inch shells. I shoot No. 2s and have nicknamed them “Salamis.” That extra 5 to10 yards you get is extremely helpful. It also helps my confidence as I am squeezing the trigger knowing that my gun “is loaded for bear!”

7) One last thing: If you are using a Robo Duck this late in the season, place it in the fast grass blind just before you light the blind on fire! And once again, call it a season.

That’s my tips for this article. Now, get off the computer, and get in the game. Let’s play ball!

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