What you May Not Know About Late Season birds" Understanding the behavior of ducks in winter can up your hunting success
Capt. Tommy Cornicelli
The behavior of ducks is governed by instincts such as feeding , mating and surviving . In the winter for example , birds spend much of their time seeking mates obviously for the "Spring Swing" if you will and of course gaming up energy reserves for their northern migration. In fact , 90 percent of mallards are already paired up by January. When these pair up they will isolate from other birds in back hidden waters , sloughs , flooded timber and thick cover which becomes a good hide away. Pairs at this time do not like competition so they isolate so they can be alone . Here paired birds especially the hens can increase consumption of protein enriched foods to complete and support winter molt and ready them for the stressful rigors of egg laying .So , where does this leave us ... understanding different behaviors of paired and unpaired ducks gives you two choices that will put the odds in your favor . your first option is to target shelter back waters where these isolated pairs are hiding .
Obviously , this will take some serious scouting and you need to have mobility. Once you have a spot located your objective is to be subtle , small rigs, I like to set decoys in pairs drake to hen combos , little calling and definitely jerk strings to help decoy shy loners to commit. Option two , is to set up in flooded and dry fields and shallow wetlands to mimic a concentration of feeding birds. In this case , large rigs , aggressive calling and lots of motion . Remember unpaired birds are anxious for company and very accustomed to finding it in large open areas. For them its see and be seen situation. There are other factors too take into consideration and affect hunting success in the late season. Ice and a quick freeze will move ducks from those small haunts to larger open waters. Conversely , a sudden thaw can send birds right back to those areas you hunted earlier . This transition back can happen quickly . The ducks know instinctively when shallow areas open up after a hard freeze. Biology definitely plays a bigger role than most hunters realize and by having this knowledge plays a bigger roll in your success !