By Bill Ayer, Duck Slayer & CEO
The most promising weather condition for us duck hunters is stormy, foul weather. Why? Storms and cold fronts usually bring strong winds and increased cloud cover — both of which can be used in our favor.
Hunters at any level can improve their opportunities for success by learning how birds behave in different types of weather to better predict where to find birds and improve your duck hunting techniques. We’ll be following up with intel and strategies for hunting on bluebird days and in freezing temperatures, both of which can extend the length of your hunting season.
Why weather matters for duck hunters
Weather conditions are one of the most important factors in determining the behavior of birds. That’s why any good duck hunter is always obsessively watching the weather.
A successful duck hunt is dependent on weather conditions. Whether you’re a seasoned duck hunter or just starting out, you can’t underestimate the importance of understanding weather patterns and their influence on bird behavior.
For example, the weather conditions in the north can be used to predict when waterfowl will be flying through your area. When the lakes freeze over and the food and water supply becomes scarce, geese and mallards will be heading south to find new feeding grounds. We need to keep an eye on the weather patterns up north to more accurately determine when birds will be heading to feeding locations in our areas.
Cloud patterns, precipitation, incoming storms and cold fronts, and wind strength and direction all have an influence over bird behavior and migration patterns.
Why stormy weather is the best weather for duck hunting
Bad weather makes for great waterfowl hunting conditions because birds want to stay ahead of storm fronts and start moving south.
Winds are one of the biggest determining factors in bird behavior. When a storm front approaches, keep an eye on the strength and direction of the wind. The wind can be a duck hunter’s friend and foe: Winds from the north may speed along departing birds, but a strong wind from the south can slow their flight, which makes for an easier hunt.
Stormy weather and a strong wind mean ducks want to move to more sheltered areas to feed. With fewer areas to find shelter and food, birds are more condensed in areas that become perfect hunting grounds. They also start flying lower to stay under the quicker winds above. Prepare for the ducks by having your spread laid out when they arrive at these locations.
The increased cloud cover during stormy weather also changes ducks’ feeding habits by changing the time of day that ducks feed. They stop looking for food at night and instead feed in the early mornings and late afternoons, both of which are favorable times for us to hunt.
We get additional benefits from cloud cover as hunters. It blocks glare from the sun, which limits the light reflection off guns and hunters’ faces. The clouds also create shadows that make our outline less recognizable.
How to call ducks into range during foul weather
Fog, snow or thick clouds — we’re in the midst of the foul weather that we want. But we can’t see the birds, and they can’t see our decoys. So, how do we get them in our range?
You hear the bird’s whistling wings and you know there are hundreds of ducks around you. The birds are looking for a safe place to land. Now is the time to let them know you are there by using your call.
First, hit them with a strong greeting call and let the thrill begin. We all know that feeling when they answer back — the hair on your back stands up with excitement.
Now, we start to anticipate what the ducks will do. You still don’t see them, so you assume they didn’t take on that first greeting call. Immediately hit them with a comeback call, then a feeding quack. When they come back, you’ll see their black silhouettes. Now you know you have them!
This is when you want to go into a close-range cadence. You should only call at wingtips and tail feathers — don’t call when they’re coming at you. Tune down the volume and start to finesse your call. When they’re over the decoys, let ’em have it!
In this type of weather, you need a call that will travel through the storm, wind, clouds and fog. We might be biased, but the Drake Slayer Single-Reed is a good acrylic duck call that can pierce through the air and wind.
Resources for duck hunting in all weather
Information on cloud patterns, precipitation, incoming storms and cold fronts, and wind strength and direction, all of which influence bird behavior and migration patterns, is easily accessible online and through apps.
- Windy.app is a great resource for obtaining current and accurate wind speed and direction for the area you are hunting.
- The NOAA weather service provides valuable information such as weather conditions, radar and Doppler readings.
- Always create a weather log when you scout hunting locations, whether it’s in notes on your phone, in an app with location markers like onX or in a notebook.
Study the ins and outs of foul weather to maximize duck hunting success
Just knowing that stormy, foul weather is good hunting weather is not enough. To become a more shrewd, successful hunter, you need to know what makes ducks move into different areas and why. Put the time and effort into understanding the correlation between weather and bird behavior, and you’ll be far ahead of the hunter who just lays down a spread when the weather gets foul.
Read part 2: How to hunt on bluebird days