Warm Winter Ducks│ Tips to Increase your Harvest As waterfowl hunters, we live for high pressure days with bluebird skies, cold temperatures and a northwest wind at 15 miles per hour. While days like that are days that duck hunters live for, the one thing that we cannot control is Mother-Nature, and when she decides to throw a curve ball at you she makes sure it’s a good one. This duck season was no exception, and with the forces of El Nino taking hold across the northern hemisphere there is no doubt that we all have felt its affects. There is a long standing joke among the waterfowl hunting community that resonates with duck and goose hunters. To paraphrase the joke, it would simply imply that a duck hunter is part hunter, and part weather man. In fact, most duck hunters tend to spend a considerable amount of time checking the weather. Why do we spend so much time with our faces glued to the weather app on our phones? Weather is critically important to successful duck and goose hunting! Think of it this way, you can add all the ingredients to make the world’s best martini, but if those ingredients are not mixed, or if just one Is missing from the mix then you will not see the same results. In short, in the world of waterfowl hunting, the right weather ingredients makes the world go round. Waterfowl hunters, more so than any other group of hunter out there, understand the importance of preparation and stacking the odds in their favor. Whether it’s spending countless hours in the truck scouting or rigging duck decoys, waterfowl hunters know that success is directly related to the amount of effort you put towards it. With waterfowl hunting, regardless if you are chasing ducks or geese, you have to do your absolute best to remove “chance” from the overall equation. While waterfowl hunters can control many of the aspects related to the hunt, like the rest of us, we cannot control the weather. So in a year like this year, when temperatures swing from unseasonably warm to frigid and back again, what do you? Here are a few tips that can help you to be successful when you have the script flipped on you. Pay Attention: It goes without saying the knowledge is power, so embrace your deepest most duck hunter and let your inner weather geek shine! During an El Niño it can be extremely difficult to predict the forecast, much more so than normal. It can be extremely valuable to keep extra close tabs on the forecast as the predications can greatly change in a short amount of time. Be Flexible: With the ability for the weather to turn on a dime, it can be very beneficial to be extremely flexible. In a year like this you could experience well above average temperatures in the morning and by 1 p.m. be under a snow advisory. Keep this in mind when planning your trip afield. Do not restrict yourself to only duck hunting mornings just because that is what you have always done, understand the weather and put yourself in the best possible position to be successful. Be a Biologist: One way that a duck hunter can overcome the tricks of extreme weather is to understand what a duck or a goose needs at any given time and understand the role that weather plays on how they will behave. For example, when the weather is warm, waterfowl will not actively be looking for food that is high in carbohydrates such like corn. Instead these birds will typically focus more on moist soil plants like smartweeds and millets. That is not to say that you wouldn’t be able to knock a few down in a flooded corn field, but primarily this will be the type of forages they will be looking for. When temperatures begin to plummet ducks and geese will be forced to go out and look for these foods that are high in carbs; this would be the time for hunting flooded grain. Understanding these concepts can help you greatly when it comes to deciding where to scout and where to hunt during a year like we currently are experiencing. El Niño events can typically bring a lot of precipitation along with them. When heavy rain events happen, ducks and geese will feel the urge to go out in search for new habitat. This is called pioneering. If you find yourself in a situation like most of the country did a few weeks ago, where high rain fall created large levels of flooding, you can take advantage of this opportunity by keeping an eye on areas where new habitat may be available. This may be bottomland, moist soil areas, or sheet water in a crop field. All in all, duck hunting during an El Niño year can still be very successful. With a little hard work, patience, persistence, and with a little weather knowledge you can stack the chips in your favor and still pull of some successful duck hunts.