The Perfect Hunting Conditions

With the 2008-’09 season well underway throughout the country, many are still working to figure out where the birds are going to be next. The knowledge of when the birds will arrive in their area is hugely dependent on weather systems, and everyone knows that—they still just like to complain. And while waterfowl have migrated south for more than 10,000 years, the conditions have never been right for many of the waterfowl hunters I know.

It reminds me of when I used to travel to south Florida to go redfish fishing every year. My great-uncle would take us to his secret holes and we would catch some great fish, but if we didn’t, he would claim the tides aren’t right.

“The tides are in; it’s no good,” he would claim one day. “Oh, the tides are out; the fishing just isn’t any good,” he said the next. And on the last day of fishing we would get skunked, and since we were in between tides, he would claim that was just terrible. I walked away from there as a young man believing that tides in general were just bad fishing. Fortunately, I would return to Indiana and catch bass, not having to deal with those unlucky tides.

It’s the exact same with waterfowl hunting. Bluebird skies, cloudy, partly cloudy, foggy, snowy and even a mix of snow and rain are all terrible conditions. Except when you talk to the guy who smacked a limit of ducks and geese on those days—they will tell you those are the ideal conditions for waterfowl hunting.

So, what really are the ideal conditions for waterfowl hunting? Do you think that we, as waterfowl hunters, have fooled ourselves into believing that one weather pattern is better than another? Or is it whatever weather pattern we have on the day the shooting is better?

“We really need some wind to get these birds up,” I’ve heard hunters say repeatedly. The 30-mph wind comes in the next day and you’ll hear, “Man, that wind pushed all these birds out of here.”

I have tried to create a log of weather patterns that are better or worse, but it seems that too often the bird harvest fluctuates whether cloudy or sunny. There is no set correlation between the two.

This is the first year I’ve managed to put my finger on a particular way to judge whether or not the weather conditions are ideal for hunting. Try this trick at home and I’m positive it will work for you. Get out a calendar and mark every day, whether it’s a weekend or a vacation day, that you’ll be able to get out into the field. Those are when you’ll have ideal weather for waterfowl hunting. The other days, while working, just be happy you don’t have to deal with those terrible hunting conditions.


12 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Fran said,

    Amen! Last week we set up in a cornfield with two hundred decoys. The day before we had put out only 30 and not on the X which yielded thousands of geese in the blue skies not landing in our spread. This new day though, was blustery, winds steady at 30mph with spitting snow. The experienced waterfowlers would not shut up about how great a system mother nature had laid upon us as we set up. After four hours void of all things wings the story turned a complete 180deg to, “The wind has kept the geese on the water/small fields with wind breaks. I will say my best day this year duck hunting was the worse weather I’ve ever been out in. Maybe it was becuase I was there and so were they. “You can’t kill em’ from the couch.”


  2. 2

    J Galvan said,

    Without a doubt fog or a a low overcast layer helps the ducks/geese get down and commit to a spread better than the clear days. I will hunt fog any chance I get. With heavy fog you can call the geese right into your spead, and when they break out, surprise!

  3. 3

    Phillip said,

    So true, like I was told when playing competitive sports. They guys that are the most successful, WANT TO BE OUT THERE NO MATTER THE CONDITIONS!

  4. 4

    B Newton said,

    I have to totally agree with this article. I live in Louisiana and cant think anybody has a more inconsistent weather pattern than us. I went two days ago(12/23), the temp was 39′ temp with a NW 12 mph wind= limit of mallards and two woodies by 6:45. Next day same place(12/24), was 68′ temp with a S 15 mph wind= limit of mallards and woodies but didnt shoot or see a big duck until after 8 o’clock! I find that any day duck hunting, rain, sleet, snow, heat, cold, etc…… is a great day!

  5. 5

    Matt Nicholson said,

    I think the weather will have an effect on the hunt. For instance, if you are hunting in an area that the birds are roosting and leaving out in the morning you would want a cloudy morning.By it being cloudy it will still be dark at shooting time and you will have a chance to shoot at the early birds that usually leave out before shooting time. Around here in South Carolina were I hunt at, if it is a morning that it is raining the ducks will fly around a lot longer than a “bluebird sky morning”, but this is just my opinion though.

  6. 6

    Sean C said,

    I agree that no matter what day or weather it can be a good or bad day. But any day duck hunting is better that being at work. I have had good/bad hunts in all weather conditions. You can’t have a good hunt if your not hunting. The only thing I will say do to the weather is that it can cause them to move. For instants if all the open water and ponds are frozen they move to moving water, rivers, canals etc. or fresh rain my flood a field. In those cases it will have any effec,t but only on your hunting location. Then again in words of my Father “First I need to be able to hit them”. Good luck to you all.

  7. 7

    Calvin said,

    Wind or heavy rain are best as either provides good ripple on the water and movement in the decoy spread here in Oregon. The rule at our club: Nasty weather finishes ducks right in the front of the blind. Both geese and ducks hunt well in low cloud cover or fog. Early seaon geese hunt nicely in the sun as the shadows provide good hide for laydown blinds along fence lines and good spread visability. Mid-Late season in Western Oregon we never see the sun so no way of telling how it effects hunting.

  8. 8

    Dan Brennan said,

    Well put!! We have set up in corn fields while a cold front was blowing wind from the north and seen in the upwards of 2500-3000 geese move over us.(got 2) The next day very similar conditions maybe 50-75 is all we saw . I don’t think there is any rhyme or reason for it. I guess it just boils down to being at the right place at the right time. Good luck!!!

  9. 9

    Brandon Trentham said,

    Wind can help or hurt any hunt, i live in Eufala Oklahoma and there is a variety of coves that allow calm water on the windiest of days. If the hunter is willing to find these calm waters, ducks will filter in. We shot a limit in the first 30 minutes of shooting time with one decoy and one mojo duck.

  10. 10

    Ben Angelo said,

    we hunted this field under blue bird skies with nt a cloud in sight we saw hundreds of geese but nothing worked in. the birds went there usual route from hershey pennsylvania to a nearby horse farm which didnt allow hunting. we went back 3 days later in windy and rainy conditions we killed 18 geese and 2 ducks in a matter of the first 2 hours of shooting time. it was a remarkable day that will always be remembered.

  11. 11

    Charlie Martin said,

    We have found hunting excellent in flooded timber here in the Mississippi Delta during thunder storms. The more sever the better! It is a little nerve racking but
    if there are ducks flying in the area, these storms put them down in our favorite
    timber hole every time. we usually get limits in 30 minutes.

  12. 12

    Austin Brittain said,

    I like this article the other day me and dad was hunitng in Barlow Kentucky and we shot our limit of mallards on a clear day the next day it was cloudy and we only shot one mallard I think it depends on the ducks and if they want to work but any day duck hunting is a good day for sure.

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