3 Late-Season Waterfowl Hunting Tips for Buzzer-Beater Ducks

As duck hunting winds toward an inevitable conclusion, waterfowl hunters often need to consider making a few late-season changes to be successful; some of the season's most challenging hunting in flooded timber and marshland can turn out to be the most enjoyable days spent afield

3 Late-Season Waterfowl Hunting Tips for Buzzer-Beater Ducks
Want to take a limit of late-season ducks? According to “RNT-V” producer and host Jim "Jimbo" Ronquest, one key is to tone down your late-season calling. (Photo courtesy of Jim Ronquest, RNT Calls)

Taking a limit of ducks late in the game can be a different proposition than when theseason was warmer and younger.

So says Jim Ronquest, the 2006 world duck calling champ and director of media relationsfor the Stuttgart, Arkansas-based, Rich-n-Tone Call company.

What does all of this mean in layman's terms? It means if you want to take a limit of late-season ducks, then you had better be willing to adjust your tactics.

And nowhere in the duck marsh or flooded timber is that more important in Ronquest's mind than in the art of being and staying concealed.


"(Probably) at no (other) time in the year is getting and staying hidden more important than it is in the late season," said Ronquest, producer and co-host for the RNT-V television show on Sportsman Channel. "You've got to pay attention to the little things."


Why is that? Because the ducks do.

In fact, North Texas duck guide Erik Burns, says ducks pay such careful attention to seeminglyminor details in the late season – like a blind that isn't totally hidden, a face that isn't covered or a spent shotgun shell laying on the ground – because at this stage in the game, waterfowl have literally been hunted and pressured for months on end.

And that means hunters have to go almost overboard in their concealment efforts, if theywant to bag a last-minute limit of ducks.

"We love to use layout blinds (in our part of the world) because they give us a mobile advantage that allows us to be more creative in our concealment game," said Burns, who guides for Bullzeye Outfitters.


"But it's not just throwing out a blind on the side of a pond or wetland that we arehunting. Instead, it's taking the time to make the blinds literally become part of the surrounding earth (and disappear).In fact, that's the most time consuming part of our morning setups is making sure that we're properly concealed."

If this seems like overkill, it isn't, especially during the final few weeks ofduck season.

"When ducks circle your decoy set, they are looking for danger," said Burns. "When you are well concealed, even the most educated of ducks can be fooled."


Even late-season birds who have gained a PhD education as they have winged their waydown the flyways.

"Sometimes, I don't think that folks give waterfowl enough credit for how smart they reallyare," said Burns. "I always set up with the mindset that I am trying to fool an intelligent animal, not an ignorant bird."

If concealment is one key to late-season success, Ronquest says another one is topay attention to the course of nature, setting your calling strategy accordingly.

"Once you get into the last couple weeks of January you can be dealing with lots of paired-up birds," said the duck hunter affectionately known to millions as Jimbo. "They typically don't want a lot of calling as the hen (in the air) sees that as competition."

Meaning that if she has a greenheaded boyfriend flying beside her, a mallard hen probablyisn't going to cup her wings and sail your way if she thinks you're a fast-talking Susie trying to steal away her suitor.

How do you combat this tendency so late in the season as the breeding cycle approaches?

"You want to blow (individual) quacks, clucks and light three- to five-note licks onthe call," said Ronquest, who often reaches for the RNT Mondo call hanging around his neck.

"Usually, those calls are all you need since you want to work 'em easy. Now if there's a big cold front pushing southward with sunshine and wind, well, you may need to put a little more on them (with your calling)."

Since late-season ducks tend to pair up – not to mention grow increasingly wearyafter weeks of migration and hunting pressure – that usually dictates an adjustment to the late-season decoy spread too.

"I'm not one of those guys who's against huge spreads and all kinds of motion decoys everywhere this late in the season," says Clint Johnson, a guiding partner with Burns and a four-time Texas state duck calling champ.

"(Why?) Because you need to let your ducks tell you what looks good to them and what doesn't," he adds. "If what you are doing with your spread is working for you, then keep doing it. But if the birds don't like it, try taking the motion decoys out and picking up a few decoys to go with a smaller spread look."

In similar fashion, keep in mind that size isn't the only adjustment that might be necessary to a decoy spread since the date is getting late and ducks are beginning to court one another.

Scott Rozell, a veteran high school football coach and a longtime duck hunter in the bottomland swamps of East Texas, keeps this in mind when setting out his own late-season waterfowl decoy spread.

"I will (actually) pair up the mallards in breeding pairs when setting out a late-season spread," said Rozell, a big fan of Ronquest and the Stuttgart-made RNT duck calls.

Rozell even goes one step further, often using flocked-head mallard decoys to give the spread an extra-colorful appearance to mimic the bright breeding plumage of late-season birds.

One thing he does avoid however are spinning-wing decoys, opting instead for somethinglike a jerk-rig or a water-level wobbler or splasher.

"(By) the time ducks get down here in the late season, they've seen thousands of spinners further up the Central Flyway," said Rozell. "In my opinion, this is when using something like a Wonderduck splasher is really awesome."

While all of the above ideas are designed to help late-season waterfowl hunters take a limit of ducks home to their dinner tables, Ronquest says the most important tip of all might be savoring these final days of the season.

"You want to enjoy each day as best you can," said Jimbo. "Because it'll be several months before we can do it again. So take an extra minute or two to appreciate your surroundings and Gods bounty!"

And that might be the best late-season advice of all, even from a world duck callingchamp who hails from Stuttgart.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Minn Kota's Brad Henry shows OSG's Lynn Burkhead that there's much to like in the new Minn Kota Riptide Terrova saltwater trolling motor that comes with I-Pilot and an 87-inch shaft.

Costa and Captains for Clean Water

Costa and Captains for Clean Water

With the company's heavy involvement in initiatives like Kick the Plastic and Captains for Clean Water campaigns, Costa's Amanda Sabin tells OSG's Lynn Burkhead all about the sunglass maker's unwavering commitment to help the freshwater and saltwater environment.

Costa

Costa's Award Winning Waterwoman Sunglasses

Costa's Amanda Sabin tells OSG's Lynn Burkhead about all of the great features that made the new Waterwoman frame a big winner at the 2019 ICAST show as well as out on the water.

MLF BPT angler and former Classic champ Casey Ashley has been with Costa del Mar sunglasses his whole career. At ICAST 2019, he shows OSG writer Lynn Burkhead some new products and talks how to pick the right lens color for the water.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

 Veteran bass anglers often dismiss urban fishing opportunities as Bass

Bass Pond Fishing: Catch Lunkers at Small Lakes Near You

Dan Anderson - February 13, 2018

Veteran bass anglers often dismiss urban fishing opportunities as "kid's fishing ponds," but...

While catfish are still catfish, the difference between day and night tactics and strategies can be profound, even when fishing the same lake or river. Catfish

How to Catch Catfish Day and Night

Terry Madewell - April 04, 2018

While catfish are still catfish, the difference between day and night tactics and strategies...

          From Monksville Reservoir to Union Lake, plus five other picks, here's where you'll find Bass

7 Best Bets For New Jersey Largemouth Bass

October 04, 2010

From Monksville Reservoir to Union Lake, plus five other picks, here's where you'll...

Want to test the outer limits of your shooting skill? There's more to successful long-range Ammo

10 Best Long-Range Cartridges Ever Made

David Hart - January 14, 2015

Want to test the outer limits of your shooting skill? There's more to successful long-range

See More Trending Articles

More Hunting How-To

Most hunters shoot better at targets than at deer. The right practice can solve that problem. Whitetail

Pick a Hair: How to Practice for Perfect Deer Shots

Richard Mann - November 13, 2019

Most hunters shoot better at targets than at deer. The right practice can solve that problem.

Take advantage of the second rut and arrow a great buck to close your season. Whitetail

Bowhunting: Second Rut, Last Chance

Dr. Todd A. Kuhn - December 23, 2019

Take advantage of the second rut and arrow a great buck to close your season.

A shot commits you to finding the animal. Your success depends on how you read the hit and the track. Whitetail

Aim True, Track Smart: Harvest Recovery

Wayne van Zwoll - December 26, 2019

A shot commits you to finding the animal. Your success depends on how you read the hit and the...

It's not over after the deer rut, and your best whitetail hunting may still be ahead. Whitetail

Make Late Season the Great Season

Mark Chesnut

It's not over after the deer rut, and your best whitetail hunting may still be ahead.

See More Hunting How-To

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.