Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Cold weather duck hunts

One of my favorite months of the year is October. The leaves are turning colors and the outdoor temperature is dropping to the point where you can wear a sweatshirt or light jacket and still be comfortable. Plus for those that hunt, the deer and waterfowl season is in full swing.
While October is great, the cold of November can result in some of the best duck hunting around!

Take for insistence a week before opening weekend of the Wisconsin nine day gun deer season. It had been so cold that many of the larger lakes had frozen over and this was during the migration of mallards was coming down from Canada. This resulted in those large northern birds resting in smaller bodies of water, including creeks that normally would have cooled soon after opening day when the wood ducks leave.
This made for some great duck hunting!

For those that don’t have a dog, no need to worry since many creeks are accessible with a good pair of waders. Warm clothes are a must for this time of year in Wisconsin, especially since you’re the one climbing in and out of the water.
While walking along the winding creek about 100 yards from where I parked the truck, the quiet chilly morning silence was broken by the sound of flushing wings. I was able to raise my 12ga, loaded with number 2 shot fast enough to take one large mallard drake!  Seeing it splash into the water I went after it.

The water came waist level, but it was an easy retrieve and after collecting my prize I worked my way out of the water.  By the time I reached dry land, ice had formed where ever water touched my waders. A good reason why having good gear is so important.
After walking some more and spotting several ducks circling about 150 yards in-front of me, I paused and watched. Seeing them land and after a few seconds of waiting, I began walking toward them. In the distance there was a small bridge and from what I could tell, the ducks were on the other side. As I neared the bridge, I could hear some quacks and further off in the distance came the sound of gunfire.

Hearing this sent what looked like eight mallards scrambling into the air and they headed right at me. I quickly raised my shotgun, took aim and fired twice. I missed the first shot, but was able to connect on the second. The mallard fell and was retrieved within seconds. I watched as the others continued to fly and soon after they seemed to disappear.

Walking downstream a little farther proved to be nothing more than exercise. I decided to head back to the truck and with some luck, was hoping to run into more resting ducks. There were a few pockets where two or three would fly up, but were well out of range.
Jump shooting was something I always did every year, but have never hunted in this area before. So not really knowing what to expect, it was a nice surprise. After seeing and hearing reports of lakes having “large amounts” of ice on them and stumbling across this creek was an accident on my part that paid off.

Not many people in my neck of the woods tend to give jump shooting ducks much credit and most seem to think you have to hit large rivers or lakes in order to be productive. Well ducks need water and when the ice forms and there is no place for ducks to land, what are they going to do? The answer is where ever there is open water.
So next time you are invited to jump shoot creeks for ducks, remember when it gets cold ducks will flock to where open water can be found. Don’t overlook smaller creeks thinking they will be “unproductive” because you may just find some large northern mallards.

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