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Tips for a successful final weekend in Quackerville

Lynn Burkhead
For the Herald Democrat

In case you haven’t noticed, the final few days of the 2020-21 duck season are falling quickly from the calendar.

In fact, with the Sunday, Jan. 31 season buzzer looming this weekend, the next few days offer the last chance for duck hunting success in Quackerville until sometime next fall.

If a buzzer beater limit is what you’re hoping for, success can depend on the work you put into afternoon scouting chores over the next few days. Put simply, when you get out and find huntable concentrations of ducks on waters where you can hunt, you’ll stand a better chance at bagging a few greenheads, gadwalls, wigeon and maybe even a pintail on a final visit to the duck blind.

Next, adjust your late season decoy spread, both in species and in size. As the homebound push of the duck migration starts to trickle north here at the bottom end of the Central Flyway, more pintails, wigeon, and shovelers have been seen over the last few days here in Texomaland. For yours truly, that means you’ll want to reduce the number of mallard blocks in your decoy rig, putting out a few more gadwalls, wigeon, and pintails if you have them.

Also reduce the number of decoys you’re pitching out on to the water in the pre-dawn gloom since most ducks have seen every 24- to 48-count tin soldier looking decoy spread from here to Canada in recent months.

A final consideration this weekend is to take your calling down a notch since end-of-season ducks are tough and a bit call shy.

That doesn't mean that end of January mallards and gadwalls are impossible to call in, however. What it does mean is that you’ll have to soft sell your quacker music when a flock of Susie's and their greenhead suitors fly over the decoy spread.

How so? First, let the birds tell you what they want to hear on any given day.

“I’ll call moderately at first and watch the reaction of the birds,” says my friend Jim Lillis, a longtime Sherman-based waterfowler and retired senior regional director for Ducks Unlimited. “If they respond well to that, then I’ll get after them. But if a flock or two peels off and acts call shy, then I’ll back off and do a minimal amount of calling.”

Another way to adjust your calling is to carry different calls on your lanyard. I always carry a loud, open-water style acrylic call that lets me crank up the volume and sound off to distant flocks or on windy days. But I also carry another acrylic call — or even a wooden call turned from bois d’arc or cocobolo — that is designed for softer, in-close duck music.

And as I’ve noted in this space before, I’m also partial to the incredible ducky tones — with the right amount of volume — from the Yentzen style calls turned out by Charlie Holder and his Sure-Shot Game Calls crew down in Groves, Texas.

Introduced to Yentzen calls years ago by my Denison High School hunting pals Mike Bardwell and the late Jeff Camp, I still like keeping a walnut Yentzen Classic or a space-age polymer Yentzen One2 handy when I’m in a duck blind. In my humble opinion, these calls have a great, ducky sound and belong on the lanyards of every Texas waterfowler.

Finally, I’ll always have a Sure-Shot Rascal or a Primos whistle on my lanyard, especially during the final days of the season. From the peeps and whistles of wigeon, teal and pintails, along with the ability to duplicate the wheezing sounds of a circling mallard drake, these calls can be the ticket to a late January limit when the birds aren’t interested in ringing highballs or comeback calls.