Thursday, February 22, 2024


November duck hunting


If you are a duck hunter, it’s hard to beat November. The local ducks are joined this month by northern migrants who show up in big numbers. Usually the green-winged teal arrive first, followed by wigeon and gadwall, and after that, the big northern mallards and pintails.

One of the advantages of hunting ducks in November is the relatively mild weather. Marshes, ponds and other waterways favored by ducks are still ice-free for much of the month and hunters wearing a pair of hip boots or chest waders with one or two dozen decoys can put themselves into a good position to harvest a limit of seven ducks in a morning of shooting.

If you are looking for some November hunting tips here are a few for you:

SCOUT FIRST – Use your binoculars and hit the rural roadways to find out where the ducks are feeding and where they are loafing on the water. If you can put yourself in either place or in between these areas you’ll increase your chances for success. Using Google Maps is another way to scout potential hunting locations before you even leave your home.

BE WILLING TO WALK – Most duck hunters don’t wander too far from their vehicles but they should because the places that are harder to get to, maybe a half-mile to two miles away from where you park, often offer good hunting with very little competition.

TRAVEL LIGHT – If you are going to be hoofing it you are not going to be able to haul three or four dozen decoys. That’s okay because you can get by just fine with anywhere from as little as six to 18 decoys.

THE RIGHT DECOYS – Many hunters just throw out a mix of plastic hen and drake mallard decoys with heads in a forward facing, upright position. However, the ducks quickly get educated to the look of these spreads and will avoid them. Consider mixing in a few decoys of other species (pintails, wigeon and teal) and sprinkle in some feeder decoys that just show the bottom half of a duck in an upright position. Confidence decoys are also used by some hunters, one of the more common ones being a great blue heron decoy at the edge of a spread near the shoreline.

GIVE THOSE DECOYS SOME LIFE – A still decoy spread on a calm bluebird day is not going to attract many ducks. While electronic motion decoys are not legal in Washington State you can use decoys with wings that spin in the wind or attach a string to a decoy and jerk on it, creating disturbance in the water when you do. Another option if you are hunting in a blind that is in the water is to use your feet to create a disturbance so that will make your decoys seem more lifelike.

STAY HIDDEN – Taking the time to construct a good blind will pay off. Hunters who don’t take the time to do this are often spotted by the ducks which will flare away before coming in range. Be sure to use fresh foliage that matches the surrounding brush on your blind and whatever you do, don’t look up at the ducks as they circle above your decoy spread because they will see your face and once again, flare off before you can get a good shot.

DON’T OVER CALL – Far too many hunters use their duck calls too much and instead of luring in the ducks, drive them away. Ducks get educated not only about decoy spreads but also about excessive calling so be judicious in the amount of calling you do. Limiting yourself to a few lone hen calls and feeding calls will likely work much better than a barrage of hail or come back calls.

HUNT DURING THE WORK WEEK – Our state wildlife areas get pretty crowded during the weekend so if you can, schedule your duck hunt during the work week. In much of Eastern Washington, you can only hunt geese on Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays so if you want a crack at a mixed bag of waterfowl without too much competition, shoot for a Wednesday hunt.

CLEAN YOUR BIRDS IN THE FIELD AND COOK THEM FRESH – By cleaning your birds in the field, even if just removing the entrails and organs, you’ll improve the taste of the meat and reduce spoilage.  Likewise, freshly cooked duck makes for a great meal and will not have the gamey taste previously frozen birds tend to have.

By using these tips, you will put yourself in a great position to harvest some ducks this month. Good luck!

John Kruse – and




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