Outdoors column: Tips for the early duck season

Every fall in Minnesota is seems the duck situation changes according to weather conditions, rain amounts and air temperatures. Heading into the early season here in central Minnesota, Mother Nature has thrown us some curves and the modern waterfowler needs to adapt accordingly. Here are some insights into our early season and some of my budding strategies.

The modern waterfowler that is willing to make some adjustments will always come out ahead at the end of the day on the water.  Submitted photo
The modern waterfowler that is willing to make some adjustments will always come out ahead at the end of the day on the water.
Submitted photo

Water sources

I am certainly a little nervous about the water levels on our river systems as well as our ponds and sloughs. Many waterways are absolutely dry as of this writing and not much rain is in the forecast. This will require some advanced scouting to try and locate areas with some water. Chances are the south bound ducks during the next migration will shift farther west towards the areas in the Dakotas that feature good water and Minnesota will definitely suffer the result. The good news is that for the early season hunter, find whatever water you can locate and chances are the ducks will be concentrated especially during the months of September and October.

Early migrants here for good spell

Another bit of good news is that the long-term speculation is that our air temperatures will be holding well above normal which in turn keeps the early migrants such as blue wing teal and wood ducks here in the state. Many times an early cold snap will send those species winging south but right now things look good. Teal and woodies make up almost 70 percent of the early season bag so it is important to have a few weeks at least to take advantage of their presence.

Goose option

It does seem we are overrun with Canada geese and because of their good numbers I have incorporated goose decoys among my duck decoys to add realism. Rarely do you see a group of ducks on the water these days without their goose buddies.

Because of this I now employ about a half dozen shell decoys on shore coupled with about two to three floating goose decoys. The added shells on dry land really tends to fool even the veteran geese that have had a tussle or two with hunters. The shell decoys along the water’s edge is the extra step that most waterfowlers tend to shy away from because it is just too much work. Believe me it is worth the extra effort.

Mix species sizes

Finally, don’t forget to add a few smaller teal decoys mixed along with some mid sizes species such as widgeon and baldpates. Tip up or feeder decoys also add realism and very rarely are these used by hunters. Anything you can do to make your spread unique from other competitive decoy spreads will make a huge difference.


Steve Carney is a contributing writer to the Outdoors page.