At first glance, the words warm, dry, and ducks do not seem to go together as December officially dawns on the calendar.
As has been the case the last couple of years, such weather doesn’t bring much in the way of optimism to Texomaland waterfowlers on the eve of tomorrow morning’s arrival of the second split of the 2017-18 Texas North Zone duck season.
In fact, many local duck hunters might be tempted to sleep in tomorrow morning as the Dec. 2 through Jan. 28 second split begins south of the Red River.
And if things don’t change in the next week, Sooner State waterfowlers might be tempted to hit their snooze buttons too when the Dec. 9 through Jan. 28 second duck season split begins north of the river for Oklahoma’s Zone 2.
Why such gloom? Because in case you haven’t noticed, the Red River Valley is currently mired in balmy weather. What else can hunters with a closet full of warm and waterproof clothing say after a so-called “cold front” knocks temperatures down into the 60s as was the case yesterday?
To quote something my kids used to say when they were much younger, “Puh-leeeezzzee!”
Especially in 2017 where this weekend, about the only place you’ll find any ice is at the Denison On Ice skating rink in downtown D-Town.
With mild weather conspiring to dampen Christmas holiday enthusiasm and scatter the limited flocks of migrating waterfowl currently in the area, some duck hunters may opt to stay at home and wait for Old Man Winter to pay a real visit before Christmas Day.
But the better option for area waterfowlers is to get out to the local marsh and use a few tricks designed to spruce up the decoy spread, all in an effort to try and lure in a few migrating ducks destined for the dinner table.
One tip is to add a splash of color to your spread, putting out a few pintail, wigeon or even canvasback decoys along with the standard spread of mallard blocks.
And maybe even try a few Canada goose floaters or a full bodied snow goose or two, a decoy rig trick that can help to grab the attention of passing ducks and build confidence as they approach the spread that all is safe and sound for a waterfowl landing party to commence.
A second tip is to create an attractive and inviting landing zone in front of your duck blind, something that can help seal the deal on a wary flock of greenheads or gadwalls wheeling overhead and looking for a place to sit down.
“I’m a firm believer in leaving a definite hole out in front of your blind,” says my friend Jim Lillis of Sherman. “I like to do a horseshoe or a J-hook upwind of the blind, leaving a definite hole for the ducks to land into. I like to spice (that hole) up with a half-dozen teal decoys or maybe a little group of mallards that look like they just came in and landed in that hole. That tends to draw in birds.”
In addition to the advice mentioned above, yet another tip to spruce up your December duck decoy spread is to adjust the size of the decoy rig up or down as the ducks dictate. In other words, try to match the hatch.
What do I mean? Simply this — if you’re seeing flocks of 10 or 15 ducks on the stock tank that you’re hunting, then you probably don’t want to throw out 50 decoys the next morning, even if your wife wants them out of the garage.
Ditto for throwing out two dozen toy-soldier looking mallard blocks on a heavily hunted marsh or reservoir where reality dictates much larger spreads since flocks of 20, 30, 40 and even 50 ducks can often be seen.
Yet another way to spruce things up a bit in December is to be sure that your spread contains some sort of motion, whether that’s provided by the age-old jerk string decoy rig, by using a spinning wing decoy, or a swimming and/or fluttering motion decoy like those manufactured by Eddie McDonough Sr.’s Real Decoy company.
While such movement is less important on windy days, it can be crucial for convincing a flock of wary and local wise guys ducks to fly by your blind when there’s barely a ripple on the water.
And finally, replace the dark green or brown lines that are attached to your decoy and its weight.
Why is that? Because by the time ducks fly south from Canada and down into the southern end of the Central Flyway, they are looking for anything out of the ordinary, including dark decoy lines jutting out from the bodies of each individual decoy in the spread below.
What’s the remedy for spooking ducks with dark colored decoy lines? Simple — switch to the clear Texas rig set-ups that can either be handmade in the backyard or can be purchased at most waterfowl hunting supply stores in North Texas (think Academy here). Texas-rigs are easy to use, clear as a bell and will not spook ducks that are looking for a reason to fly right on by.
December ducks, especially when the weather is more spring than winter like, can be a bit on the persnickety side. And that can mean that the hunting can be difficult.
But not impossible, especially if you’ll make some effort to spruce up your mid-season decoy rig.
Even if Old Man Winter seems to be currently vacationing at the beach.