It’s Crunch Time for the 2002 Waterfowl Season

March 23, 2009 by  

By Jason Phillips

The 2002 waterfowl season is just around the corner and it’s time for final preparations. For avid waterfowlers, preparation begins at the final sunset on the last day of the previous season. August is crunch time! The planning, preparation and anticipation has reached its climax and everything will soon fall into place for the 2002 season. To be successful in the field and in the slough, waterfowlers must be artists, biologists and meteorologists, amongst many other things.

One form of preparation begins with the transformation from an outdoorsman into an artist. Waterfowlers strive to master the art of calling, a priceless asset in any spread. This past “off season” I began a new endeavor in the quest to produce the highest quality sounds in the field. I transitioned to a new short reed goose call. The call has the ability to produce the sounds of all of the subspecies of Canada geese as well as Snows, Blues and Specks. From the high pitched clucks to the deep, hollow and raspy barks that geese are looking for when approaching a spread. The versatility of the call is evident from the moment you pick it up. The multitude of sounds this call can produce makes practice essential but the magic this call produces is well worth the time! Another wise investment is in perhaps your most loyal hunting partner.

Mans best friend is also truly a waterfowlers best friend, if you have waited until now to train your retriever, it may well be too late, but better late than never. The waterfowl season will bring a wide array of conditions and demands, both physical and mental on your retriever. A commitment to a training routine is essential throughout the year to ensure your retriever is there when you really need them. Now is the time when everything should come together, the retriever should be in top physical shape and prepared for the arduous demands the hunting season will bring. But without finding the birds even the best caller and best trained dogs will have a tough time during the hunting season.

Preseason scouting gives waterfowlers the opportunity to strategically plan areas that will be potential areas to hunt this fall. Scouting before the season begins will ensure the most successful hunts in the fall and maximize the amount of time spent hunting instead driving around looking for a place to hunt. Depending on a waterfowler’s familiarity with an area, they should make mental notes or keep a log of areas that will likely produce quality hunting opportunities. A major factor in determining where birds will be, of course, is the availability of water. Another essential ingredient is the agricultural crops that are planted in the area.

Early season Canadas take advantage of grain crops harvested during July and August. Soybean fields are generally a great option for ducks and geese in mid October. As the season unfolds the late season standby will undoubtedly be corn which attracts birds looking for high energy food sources in preparation for the migration south. Finding these food sources within a reasonable radius of a roost area is a great place to start.

Another major factor in determining success is the amount of hunting pressure in an area. Finding your own “Honey Hole” is getting tougher each year, but taking some time before the season begins may help you increase your chance of finding an unknown hotspot. As the agricultural harvest continues throughout the hunting season each pass of the combine opens up new hunting opportunities. By knowing where the birds “should be” during these transitions, will increase the odds of memorable hunts.

Weather conditions can make or break a waterfowl season in the northern plains. Having options for anything Mother Nature brings can make or break a season. Last year we experienced some unusual weather, an artic blast from the north brought migrating birds from Canada by the third week of October. Mild weather after the blast kept birds around for the rest of the season. Without the artic blast the birds may have spent our entire season north of the border in Canada like they had in the previous few years. The influx of birds from the north last season was great but the artic blast also moved many local birds out of the state. Hunting strategies need to transition with the weather. Setups and spreads that bring in local birds need to be adjusted to attract migrators. For the most part migrators find strength in numbers, therefore finding areas around refuges or other large bodies of water with very limited hunting pressure will usually produce good hunting opportunities. After spending all the time determining where the birds should be this fall, it is inevitable that some of the best areas will not be an option because land access is not available.

Waterfowlers have a long tradition of building strong relationships with landowners. Now more than ever these relationships may be the most important part of a successful hunting season. The expanding numbers of waterfowlers in the state has been accompanied by increased pressure on landowners for land access. Building relationships with landowners throughout the course of the year can help to ensure success in the fall. The benefits of spending time with landowners are two-fold, they know the land better than anyone therefore they have insights to waterfowl patterns in the area in all conditions and making the extra effort to build these relationships will also help to ensure land access. Without these relationships, successful hunts may be limited by the balance in your bank account not by your passion for waterfowl hunting.

As we approach the 2002 Opener do all you can to get ready for the 2002 season, your preparation will be well worth it!


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