You'll probably recognize these hunts, as they occur almost every year
Every day of duck season is good, but let's agree that some are better than others. Sometimes those especially good hunts might involve full straps. Other times they revolve around friendships or special occasions.
But during every campaign, you can usually count on specific types of days that make you smile. You'll probably recognize some of these seven great hunts.
I confess to complaining about crowded openers every year, and I've written quite a bit about the sketchy behavior of opening weekend hunters. Still, I mark this date on my calendar every year, as it's the first chance to set decoys in the marsh after a long off-season. Sometimes you'll get a bunch of ducks. Other years you might get frustrated. But if you keep the right mindset, you'll agree that opening day is pretty cool.
First Big Cold Front
Duck hunters everywhere long for that first batch of weather that brings in fresh birds. In the North, it might be a cold October night and stiff northwest wind. Farther south, ducks might arrive after a solid December freeze elsewhere. Either way, you'll recognize the difference immediately, as those new ducks act like ducks should.
The Patient Planner
Sometimes we duck hunters are our own worst enemies, hunting spots too soon or too often, thereby limiting success or burning them out. But if we're smart, we'll wait to let bird numbers build at a pothole or rice field, or at least limit our hunting there. Then, when conditions seem right, we'll spring the trap and enjoy a great shoot, all thanks to patience and foresight.
The Ah-Ha Moment
Stale ducks confound even the best hunters. But with persistence and observation, you can sometimes determine what birds are doing and forge a plan to take advantage. Maybe you've noticed a travel route divers use between roosting and feeding areas. Perhaps you watched mallards settle into a small stock pond to loaf. Whatever the case, when you hunt them, the results are especially satisfying.
The Perfect Storm
Ideal conditions don't occur every day. Often it seems like the weather is too warm and the winds are too light. Or maybe farmers haven't harvested many crops, or green-timber patches haven't flooded yet. But when the perfect day arrives — and it usually does — take vacation, call in sick, or maybe even fake an injury to get afield. You don't want to miss it. And you especially don't want your buddies to call and tell you about it while you're at work.
A Waning Moment
Have you noticed how the final days of duck season often bring some shakeups? Up North, that might mean a solid freeze that concentrates hardy mallards and black ducks in a small creek. Farther south, it could involve returning ducks heading north on a southerly breeze. As with ideal days, you won't want to miss those memorable moments.
The bittersweet final day of duck season evokes various feelings: sadness, relief, or even anticipation for the next year. Like opening day, it might bring a full strap of ducks. Or it could just provide a chance to reflect on the good and bad of the season and appreciate all you've seen. But you'll want to get out there. After the last day, you can placate yourself for a while with snow geese, turkeys, and then fishing. But then summer arrives, and you'll long for the next opener, as the cycle of seasons continues.
(Don't Miss: Game Changes: How Ducks React to Shifting Conditions)