This waterfowl season will be remembered as a underachiever. Hunting has been below par. As usual, there has been some feast, but also much famine.
Pre-season waterfowl population reports were encouraging and the hunting started off with a bang on opening day. That’s one hunt you can count on. However, November and December were very poor. During the last week couple weeks of December, I ran a string of Mayberry hunts together where I didn’t fire a shot. The birds just were not there.
Hunting at Webb Tract has been better and fairly consistant.
Mayberry has had fewer ducks this year than any year I can remember since the habitat matured in the mid 90’s. I haven’t shot a limit of ducks at Mayberry since the opener and that’s rare, but it’s the days without a shot that have been tough. On Saturday, Joe and I set up twice and hunted until mid day before we fired a shot. We did manage to bag four ducks before we left. I made a mistake and shot a hen mallard. Joe got the drake. He then knocked down a gadwall and I closed out with a drake sprig, but it was a long day.
The ponds are deep and difficult to navigate. I made the mistake of chasing after the hen mallard without my wading stick and paid the price when I tripped over a cattail and went for a swim. Furtunately the water didn’t quite make it down my waders.
There were large flocks of birds around, but they were in their late-season pattern of very cautious behavior. But, that’s duck hunting.
I guess that’s why duck hunters are notorious for sounding negative. The dynamics of waterfowl behavior and all the variables that come into play often leave the duck hunter sounding dazed, frustrated and even ungrateful. The resulting hunting report is often based more upon the hunter’s personality and perception than what’s really happening in the marsh.
The current flood conditions will once again test duck hunters, hungry for a final flurry – a flurry that will satisfy few and frustrate most.
My advise – don’t set your expectations too high for the last weekend. Enjoy good company and take what is given. Don’t hunt till dark on the last day and leave some time to reflect on your blessings. If you do this, you won’t go wrong.