Preparations for Next Duck Season Begin with a Look Back | Reflecting on Last Year’s Season Any successful waterfowl hunting, regardless of whether they prefer to chase ducks or geese will tell you that one of the absolute best ways to start out on the right foot for next ducks or goose season is to evaluate how things went during the previous season. Taking some time to reflect back upon the successes and failures of the previous waterfowl season can not only yield some fond and sometimes frustrating memories but can also teach us a lot and help waterfowl hunters start out the next season on the right foot. It seems like every duck season brings with it some familiar challenges as well as some new challenges. Duck and goose season 2015/16 was absolutely no exception. This past fall yielded some very memorable hunts that had waterfowl hunters leaving the marsh with full game carriers while, on the flip side, there were many days when hunting was downright tough. There were several factors that lead to this up and down rollercoaster of a season, and while the slow days were extremely frustrating as one looks back on those hunts there are certainly things that can be derived, learned and applied to waterfowl season 2016/17. Wet and Wild, Mother-Natures Mood Swings For those that hunt waterfowl across the Midwest, the weather was unlike any other waterfowl season that many can recall. While the late summer was relatively dry, beginning in mid-September certain areas experienced heavy rainfall with flash flooding occurring in some parts of the Midwest. These rains were beneficial in some regards and detrimental in others. On one hand, these rain fall events provided a large amount of water to certain areas that provided new habitat in areas that would very rarely see water during this time of year. On the other hand, high water levels damaged wetland impoundment infrastructure such as levees and dams and caused a lot of restored wetlands to have breaches and reduced their ability to hold water once the flood waters receded. The heavy rains began just in time for teal season, which actually lead to many waterfowl hunters having a banner teal season. These heavy rains were associated with the passage of strong frontal boundaries and seemed to not only bring with them heavy rainfall, but cooler temperatures as well. These fronts brought with them a stellar teal migration for many parts of the Midwest. If duck hunters could find the habitat, chances are they could find the teal. While high water levels put a damper on hunting some of the “ole stomping grounds”, these events caused the dedicated hunter to get out and burn some gas in search of new areas, almost forcing one to scout as it were. Locating new areas to hunt, while frustrating at the beginning will surly yield dividends in the future, the next time we experience conditions like we had this fall. Wet conditions continued to persist off and on throughout the early part of the duck season, with large rain events continuing to occur on through the month of October. Waterfowl hunters in the Midwest are not accustomed to finding themselves caught in the middle of a thunderstorm during the months of October and November; however, this year that was certainly the case. Large quantities of water across the landscape in including managed waterfowl areas made things somewhat difficult, as it made all of the winter forage available all at one time. This tended to spread the ducks and geese out more so than normal and changed their feeding patterns, which proved to be more inconsistent than in years past. Temperatures during the end of October and first part of November were mild, which also restricted waterfowl movement. In addition, the lack of substantial winter weather in Canada and the Northern Plains States had not yielded are large push of mallards to the lower Midwest by this time which made for some interesting hunts, with the stringers predominately being comprised of Pintails, Gadwalls and Teal with a few diving ducks tossed in. Thankful for Thanksgiving Luckily, right before Thanksgiving as if on que the upper Plains States along with Canada received on their first big cold snaps of the winter, bringing snow and freezing temperatures to the area. Duck and goose hunters who were paying close attention to the weather and found themselves in the blind during this time most likely didn’t regret it. This one event, which occurred on the second weekend in November brought with it the majority of the duck migration that would occur this fall. With plenty of habitat available for the migrating waterfowl, there were plenty of tied greenheads that found their way into a spread of Hard Core decoys, and took a boat ride back to the Chevy. While duck hunting did tend to stay fairly productive for a couple of weeks following this major push of birds, by the end of November, and with no new birds to speak of these ducks and geese were starting to become very educated and tough to hunt. The weather certainly played a major factor in this, as a lack of significant cold fronts limited the number of new birds to the area. For duck and goose hunters who were watching the weather, and took advantage of this opportunity chances are this two week period was probably the best they had all year. For those who were hinging their bets that it was only going to get better, well, chances are they missed out on some excellent hunting. Waterfowl hunters can control a lot of things when it comes to stacking the odds for success but the one thing that is out of our hands in the weather. You have to take advantage when the opportunities present themselves and get while the getting is good! Temperatures towards the latter part of November began to swing toward the mild side, and duck and goose hunting began to slow. With hunting slowing and birds becoming educated, duck and goose hunters had their eyes on December and were hopeful for a late season surge. Cold Temps = Hot Hunting As December rolled around, the mild temperatures continued for a large part of the Midwest. Luckily, things began towards the end of the first week of December. Temperatures began cool off with some ice events occurring. This was just enough to send the greenheads into a forage mode and birds began to focus on high carbohydrate foods and the hunting began pick up significantly in some areas. While hit or miss, if you took your time to do your scouting and put in the hours there were some excellent hunts to be had and the folks that put in the time defiantly reaped the benefits. Hunt Presented Hard Core | GueydanOn this week of Hunt - Presented Hard Core we're headed down to visit our good friends in Gueydan, Louisiana to do a little goose huntin. Catch the all new episode tomorrow night at 6 EST only on The Sportsman Channel. #HUNT #HardCore Posted by Hunt - Presented Hard Core on Saturday, September 26, 2015 Temperatures in the low Midwest never did fall toward the normal low temperature mark, with many areas never experiencing a single ice event which is very unusual for that time of year. While there were many facets to this past duck season that were very frustrating indeed, a lot can be learned. For example, ducks and geese will tend to follow the same trends and patterns during certain events such as high water or warm temperatures. Moving forward, you can stay ahead of the curve and be able to better anticipate the bird movement and perhaps event their location just from getting out and giving it your best shot this past season. Remembering the hunts that went right are always fun and enjoyable, however, remembering those that went wrong while not as enjoyable can provide some invaluable lessons that can be applied the following season and help make you more successful the next time around. Here at Hard Core we live by the moto “It Aint Easy”. We believe in that moto, as anyone who hunts waterfowl will tell you, it can be one of the most challenging sports there is, pushing man, woman and machine to their limits and testing the endurance and patients of the even the most passionate and dedicated. Waterfowl hunting is a lifestyle choice and is something that Hard Core waterfowl hunters live and breathe each and every day. Much like a professional athlete works during the off season to hone their craft, so do the dedicated duck and goose hunters. This is what separates successful waterfowl hunters from those who come home with a box full of unspent shells. While success isn’t necessarily measured based upon the number of birds on your game carrier, it is certainly part of the equation. Take some time this off season to sit down and reflect on the good, bad and the ugly of waterfowl season 2015/16 and chances are you will find a tip or tactic that you can use next year to help you bring a few more birds home.