- Last Updated on Wednesday, 13 January 2010 05:00
- Published on Wednesday, 13 January 2010 05:00
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It has been bone-chilling cold in our region the last few weeks and the wind has blown terribly too. Despite this terrible weather, there still are some hot hunting opportunities left if you are so inclined to bundle up and head out. Waterfowl season has been decent this year and many duck and goose hunters are happy about the cold because it has pushed birds south from our northern neighbors where the birds have had to park on the ice with little or no food.
Duck hunting is a lot of fun, and your writer prefers to hunt marshes and ponds over rivers. However, the ponds and marshes are really frozen over at this point and the rivers are pretty much all that is left. However, if you can find a pond or beaver swamp with even a small opening in the water, you can count on some fast action. If it begins to snow or rain, the action will be even hotter. I have seen some guys use (and I have done this effectively as well) logs and roped blocks to break open a hole in a pond or swamp. The trick is to try and do this for a few days if possible before the day you are going to hunt to allow birds to find the area and use it. Even if you have only the day of the hunt to break ice go ahead and give it a try. You really don’t have to do this in the wee hours of the morning either. I have done this in the late afternoon when the sun has come up and warmed things up some. Perhaps the birds are out and about looking for freshly melted holes. They often show up unannounced and come in fast.
River hunting can even be tough as the birds are often frozen out of their tributaries of even tidal water. When the ice builds up this bad you will find hundreds of birds flocked up along mud flats in the main river. They can be spooked easily, but when they do they will find another location. If you are paying attention, you can keep tabs on what areas they used in the past and set up with a few decoys and wait for some action.
Jump shooting is in order when you find a flock; however, you need to be careful how you do this to remain legal. Do not hide under netting or other material. You cannot do this. Instead you can hunker down in your uncamouflaged canoe or jon boat and drift to the birds. Get uptide or upwind of them and be patient. Dress warm. The drift sometimes takes a long time. You may not shoot from a moving boat that has been propelled by a motor or sail unless that movement has ceased. Drifting under current or wind power without a sail is permitted. Wait until you are well within range and then take your shots. Keep safety in mind as your friends are in the boat with you to include the four-legged variety.
The same situation noted above will work for geese too. I would say that a solid 30 percent of the geese I have bagged have come from jump shooting. Many people don’t think of goose hunting like that, but it does work.
Field hunting for geese is likely the best way to go about things right now though. The geese will roost on the river but they will also feed a few times a day. If you have access to a farm field where some grain may be left or a spinach field, then geese may be using the area. Get at least a dozen decoys, a ground blind and some practice time on your goose call and hit the field. Field geese can be hunted all day. Scout the field to determine when the birds are using it. There is no sense is being in a cold field on frozen ground for hours when the geese are only coming in at a certain time. I use a Redhead Deluxe Lay Down Blind. It has good back support and is easy to break down. The bottom is waterproof and even though I am tall and like to wear a lot of clothes to stay warm, there is plenty of room in it to move around, reload the shotgun and keep a thermos in it. The doors open quickly and there are flagging holes. There is even a dog access door.
One thing I have been taught and have seen to be true the last few seasons is that the quality of your decoys can make a huge difference. Flocked heads are the way to go. Sometimes the late season birds are very skittish so things need to look right. I have also begun using Redhead Full Body decoys. They are reasonably priced and durable. I have tossed mine in the truck more than a few times with no issues. I like the fact that the decoys move in a breeze too. This gives them a lifelike look needed to fool wary birds.
If you are looking to keep your guns in action for a few more weeks, head to the river or fields and take home some tasty eating too. Good hunting.