With plenty of crazy, topsy-turvy weather gripping the Red River Valley over the past week or two, waterfowlers in Oklahoma might be scratching their heads about what to wear to the duck blind.
After all, as the Nov. 4-26 first split of the Oklahoma Zone 2 duck season continues, the weatherman has brought a little bit of everything in recent days from sub-freezing weather to record highs in the lower 90s to yesterday’s rainy and chilly conditions.
Fortunately, the ducks don’t seem to be noticing too much as hunters report fair numbers of waterfowl in the few days that have transpired after last weekend’s southern Oklahoma opener.
“Everything has been great so far this season and we have stacked the birds up,” said Dakota Stowers, head man of North Texas Outfitters (www.northtexasoutfitters.com; 903-815-9842). “We are seeing gadwalls and wigeon mostly and then some mallards and pintails too.”
Stowers had expected good hunting last weekend after late week scouting before the Nov. 4th opener showed good numbers of waterfowl building on wetlands and small lakes that his outfitting service guides on in portions of southwestern Oklahoma.
“I was expecting a smack down kind of duck shoot on opening morning,” he said, noting that’s pretty much what happened as most hunters that his guides took out ended up with easy limits.
Thanks to heavy rains a few weeks ago in southwestern Oklahoma – the same rains that caused a sharp rise in Lake Texoma’s level – Stowers and his guides are expecting a continuation of the good early season shooting over the next several days, particularly where they continue to find puddles of sheet water.
“A pretty good key with the rain that went through North Texas and southern Oklahoma (a few weeks ago and again on Wednesday) is to go to wheat,” said Stowers. “Find a flooded hole because ducks love flooded wheat – it’s one of their favorite things to eat around the Red River Valley.”
With yesterday’s late week rain and cold front, Stowers is expecting more of the same this weekend.
“This weather is exactly what a duck hunter dreams of,” said Stowers. “A low temperature just north of 32 degrees with a good north wind too. When that happens in the early season, you know that means a good push of birds will be showing up.”
For southern Oklahoma waterfowl hunters wanting to get out and give the ducks a try this weekend, Stowers offers several pieces of advice.
“First, like always, you’ve got to get out and scout,” he said. “Go to the spots that had ducks last fall and start looking. When you find the biggest numbers in one particular spot, that’s where I’d be the next morning.”
Next, the guide says to match your decoy spread to the early season ducks that you will be hunting.
“In these early days of the November split, you’re going to see more pintails, gadwalls, wigeon, and teal than you will mallards,” said Stowers. “So the key is to make your decoy spread match the ducks that you can expect to see in the air right now.
“Throw a few Avian-X mallard decoys out, but make sure that you’ve got plenty of the other species in your spread too.”
Next, don’t overdo the calling on your acrylic duck calls since location will usually trump a hunter’s ability to belt out a few highball greeting calls right now.
“I’m not much on highballing at early season ducks,” said Stowers. “I’ll throw some feed chuckles and hen quacks out of our Zink calls, and some teal and pintail whistles too, but being in the right spot beats the best duck calling on most days, especially in the early season.”
Finally, even though it is still the early days of the 2017-18 duck season here in the Red River Valley, the season has been going on for several weeks to the north of here.
“That means that you’ll need to cover up good,” said Stowers. “Even though opening weekend was just a few days ago, we’ll spend a few extra minutes to make sure that our Avian-X A-frame blinds are grassed up well and brushed in good to keep circling ducks from seeing us.”
With Stowers’ recommendation to target flooded wheat fields, how does one hide in such spots?
“If we can, we’ll try to hunt fence rows in our A-frame blinds,” he said. “But if that isn’t possible, we’ll use layout blinds.”
After that, all that’s left for a Sooner State waterfowler to do is to shoot straight when the ducks try to land in the decoy spread.
That and make sure that they are dressed for the right temperatures, of course, as our crazy run of topsy-turvy November weather continues.