There are plenty of misconceptions about how the weather affects duck hunting.
Some duck hunters say you need the perfect wind, and others say that the barometric pressure has to be just right.
Although in my experience, I have found that neither one of those claims is necessarily true. What is most important is the overall weather, not just the wind or air pressure.
Let’s take a look at three of the most common weather conditions for waterfowl hunting season and how we should approach them.
Gloomy days are my absolute favorite time to duck hunt. My dad and I normally describe these as a “good day to be a duck” because they love this weather, and it’s awesome to hunt in. This weather gets ducks moving more than normal, and if you’re smart about it, you can limit out pretty quickly.
During gloomy days, there will be plenty of cloud cover. This is going to make ducks fly lower, and possibly a little later in the day than they otherwise would. I notice that ducks start flying around my swamp about 20-30 minutes later with cloud cover than they do on clear days.
It also helps if there’s a little bit of light rain, or if it rained overnight. Any kind of weather that’ll make ducks want to stay put will have them moving before and after it comes through.
These gloomy days often come before a storm or right after, almost as a signal to ducks that they either need to start feeding before the storm, or that the storm is over and they can feed again. If this is the case, ducks are going to be looking for areas that provide plenty of food and moderate shelter.
You can capitalize on this behavior with a few decoys and a feeding call. Personally, I like to set up a dozen or so decoys around a swamp with another half dozen on a jerk string. When ducks fly by, they are going to be looking for other ducks and listening for a feeder call so they know they can fill up before or after the storm.
Since ducks fly a little lower on these days, be ready for them to come in low enough to shoot a little faster than normal. There have been many times where we would have wood ducks and mallards fly straight into our decoys without circling a single time.
When it’s extremely cold out and the water starts freezing, duck hunting takes dedication. For the longest time, it always felt like I could never wear enough socks to hunt on these days. You definitely need the right gear to hunt freezing weather or you’re just going to be miserable.
When it gets below freezing and the water starts to ice up, you’re going to have to change your strategy. You’re only going to be out in the cold for a few hours, but the ducks live in it. So they’re going to need to eat much more during this time so that they can make up for the caloric deficit that comes with colder weather.
If you normally hunt shallow still water, it’s going to be frozen over. Ducks don’t like frozen water, and they aren’t going to land in it. If the ice is multiple inches thick, you may want to start hunting over moving water.
There’s a large creek that feeds into the duck swamp that I hunt, and the ducks love to land in it during these kinds of days when the rest of the swamp is frozen. So I am much better off hunting near that than I would be at my normal spot if the ice is too thick to bust up.
With that being said, if the ice isn’t too thick, ducks will land in areas of water where you bust the ice up.
We get to the blind nice and early so there’s plenty of time for us to bust up the thinner ice around the area we’re hunting. Then, once the ducks see our decoys in the only open still water around, you can bet they’ll be interested.
Freezing-weather duck hunting is all about finding where the water is still open and where there’s still plenty of food. Ducks just want to eat and land in water, so if you can find both, you should do fairly well on these cold-weather days.
Clear Beautiful Days… For People
Now for one of the harder days to hunt: clear skies, low wind and warmer temperatures. People love these days, as they’re awesome for doing things outside. However, they aren’t the best for duck hunting.
I’ve found that during days with clear skies, ducks tend to fly higher, so it takes longer to get them within shooting range, which just gives us more time to do something wrong. In my swamp, ducks seem to circle a minimum of three times on these days.
The low wind also makes it tough to hunt. Plenty of hunters like to use the wind direction to predict duck movement, but what I like about the wind is that it conceals my movement.
I stay tucked away as best I can, but when ducks are circling, I want to know where they are. So I move my head a bit, which normally isn’t a problem, but any movement is a dead giveaway on clear days without wind.
Warmer temperatures and clear weather also mean that the ducks aren’t going to be forced into moving. They may not move as much, but they will still move. You’ll find that at least some ducks are going to be flying in the morning.
To hunt beautiful clear days, you need to hunt somewhere that offers you a lot of concealment from the sky. We built a blind that has a roof, which keeps ducks from seeing us overhead. You also want to make sure you wear a good face mask or paint your face. A shiny face looking up on a sunny day is going serve as a warning beacon to anything flying above.
Use a normal amount of decoys and include something with motion. Make sure to hide yourself well and prepare to work ducks a little extra. They’ll need some convincing on clear days.
Many weather conditions call for a change in your hunting strategy, but there are a few basic things you can always do. Make sure you’re concealed and be careful with your movement. Know that ducks don’t just fly around for the fun of it; they’re looking for food and other ducks, so make that available to them and you should at least grab their attention.
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