If you want to hunt sly and cunning animals, give late-season ducks and geese a try.
These birds are some of the wariest animals on the planet.
If you trick them once, consider yourself lucky.
If you trick them twice, you had better celebrate because it is a good bet the same set-up will not trick them again.
You better be prepared, if you want to be successful on decoy-wary, call-shy birds that have seen every set-up and heard every call.
You will definitely have your work cut out for you.
Late Season Ducks
Late-season ducks have heard and seen everything, from small spreads to large spreads, spinning wing decoys to jerk strings, and loud competition calls to soft timber calls.
After being shot at from Canada to Mexico, they have learned to be cautious, very quickly.
To lure pressured, late-season ducks to your decoys, you have to locate the areas where the birds feel safe.
Late season scouting is the most important tactic to score on these wary ducks.
Once you find the right area, it is vital that you do not overshoot the area.
Overshooting the area will push the ducks to another location.
During the late season, ducks are focused on eating and pairing up.
Adjust your decoy spread to maximize its potential.
Setting out decoys to imitate this pairing, along with placing individual hen decoys, will offer a more realistic appearance for these skittish birds.
When you set out your decoys, put the pairs in feeding-specific locations. Step away from the randomly tossed decoy layout.
The individual hen decoys will draw in lone drakes searching for a mate.
When it comes to spinning wing decoys, it can be an advantage to forgo them in a late-season spread.
Their popularity shows as they appear in most decoy spreads across the nation.
As the ducks migrate through the flyway, they become wary of the flashing wings and may completely avoid your set-up.
During the late season, make your spread stand out from the rest and leave the spinning wings at home. Instead, rely more on jerk strings and location.
Late Season Geese
Canada geese have the ability to pick out the smallest misplaced object in the most ideal decoy spread, and they can drive even the best hunters insane.
Late season Canada geese can even make hunters want to take up residence in the looney bin.
If you tweak your set-up and perfectly match your surroundings, you can lure these honkers into range and manage to avoid getting frustrated.
Like ducks, late season, educated geese are the toughest.
You have to focus on the finest details.
It is best to brush and mud your blind each morning.
Mud dries and becomes a lighter shade.
Reapplying the darker wet mud will keep you camouflaged.
Learn to use the weather to your advantage during late season goose hunts.
Remember to focus on the fine details.
Those little details include how the birds act during periods of different weather events.
When a front is approaching, geese will actively feed before the pressure and temperature changes.
During frontal conditions, a better decoy spread will have a larger number of feeder and active decoys.
In sunny and stable weather, the birds will tend to lie around and rest more.
During stable conditions, use more resting decoys and a smaller number of active decoys for a more realistic spread.
Late Season Retrievers
Your waterfowl retriever has to meet numerous requirements while retrieving birds or sitting in the blind during the late season.
Do not worry about lining and handling your retriever at a couple hundred yards.
Again remember the fine details, and concern yourself with sit and stay commands.
Your biggest enemy with a late-season retriever is a lack of obedience.
A dog that aimlessly wanders around can create serious safety issues in the blind.
A loaded shotgun that is accidentally knocked over by a wandering retriever could discharge and potentially wound or even kill someone.
Make sure you train heavily on obedience commands.
Practice sitting and staying for extended periods. You can reinforce place training anywhere at any time.
Place your retriever on a certain spot and have him sit.
If he decides to move, immediately place him back on the spot.
You dictate his movements. He does not get to make the decision.
Practice Obedience With Your Retriever
While training for sit and stay, reinforce the recall command. While the action is hot and fast, you do not want your retriever loafing around looking for birds.
Start out with shorter lengths of time and calmly praise his patience.
Slowly increase the time your dog sits in that specific spot.
Most hunting retriever owners know your dog must be acclimated to different conditions and locations.
Do not assume since your dog is an obedient retriever from a boat that he will be equally obedient from a tree-mounted dog stand or even a pit blind.
You have to introduce your retriever to whatever conditions you may encounter before your hunt.
Lean a board against your picnic table and walk him up and down the board.
This teaches him to use a ramp. Sit with him and throw a few bumpers.
Along with ramp training, you are reinforcing place training, patience, and steadiness.
Practice the same routine from a dog stand hung close to the ground on a tree in your yard.
This will help train him for flooded timber.
While training for sit and stay, reinforce the recall command.
While the action is hot and fast, you do not want your retriever loafing around looking for birds.
You need to thoroughly ingrain the recall command despite any distractions.
At various times during the day, call your retriever to you only when you are sure he will come or if you use a check cord to make him come.
A complete delivery to hand training regimen will help prevent any window shopping in the field.
Many hunting retriever owners, including myself, allow their hunting dog to live inside the house.
Before you take your retriever to the marsh, lake, or field, your dog needs to acclimate to the cold.
Late season hunts can be the coldest of the season.
So get your dog outside in the cold and play with him.
This will encourage his thick winter coat to develop.
Do not forget to get him in the water.
Your dog will get exercise from the swimming, and the acclimation process will be accelerated by the cold water.
If you have any concerns about the cold affecting your dog, by all means, invest in a high-quality neoprene dog vest.
Additionally, make sure you are properly dressed and having layers to protect you from the cold.
When you consider what things can go wrong on a late-season hunt, you can better prepare to handle them if they do.
Remember to focus on the little details and try to present the most natural decoy spread.
Do not forget to stand out in the crowd and leave the spinning wing decoys at home.
Make sure your hunting partner is in top shape both physically and obediently.
Lover of hiking, nature, camping, bird calls, and more. I run ATO and do my best to provide interesting information for my readers to help make their outdoor adventures more fun.