Many duck hunters are leaving the marsh just when they should be arriving. Midday can be the best time to swat a limit of mallards.
The reason for this is that modern mallards are behaving increasingly like snow geese, traveling in big flocks and often leaving their watery roosts before shooting time to feed in fields far away. They’re typically not back until noon or so, after most hunters have left for the day. Here are two tips for hunting smart when everyone else is gone.
Hunt the Roost
• Get a good vantage point some afternoon to see where the birds are roosting. Set up on the roost the next morning and you may be surrounded by more greenheads than there are at Chicago’s St. Patrick’s Day parade.
• Although they often fly out in big flocks, mallards trickle back to roosting and loafing sites in small, easily decoyed groups.
• Some mallards are flushed by other hunters heading to their trucks at midday. Setting up in an overlooked pocket could bring the spooked birds in.
Hunt the Layover
• Set up a small decoy spread on pockets of water between feeding and roosting areas. These can be great spots for midday action on birds that are thirsty from eating all morning but don’t want to fly all the way back to their distant roosting areas prior to the evening feed.
• Many of these layover areas are shallow potholes. If there isn’t enough cover to hide in, use layout blinds camouflaged to match the surrounding area, and place a few loafing decoys around your blind.