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Over the past few years waterfowl hunting has been difficult in our area of southern Illinois, hunting doesn’t seem to improve unless we get a major weather event, to force the ducks into a different pattern. With what seems to be consistently warmer winters, we never know when we may get some backwater or a big freeze to help us out. Just so happens we got both in a matter of weeks towards the end of this waterfowl season, to help cap a slow year off.
Up to this point, we had not had too much success whether it was on public land or in our duck hole, just scratching out a mallard or two. We had a few decent hunts but it was nothing to write home about until a timely late season flood event accompanied with some cold weather. We had been watching the conditions fairly close and the day that things really got locked up the river was getting right. We took a chance on the fresh water that we hadn't seen ducks using yet, when our hole froze up. We jumped what seemed to be 200 mallards out of the fresh backwater and we were hopeful. We quickly got set up and hoped that most of the ducks would trickle back and we could slowly pick them off. It was cold with the rising water kept anything we had from freezing up and it was game on. Groups of mallards began to slip in and finishing perfectly in the decoys.I didn't do much shooting, while running my dog, but we were able to kill a single limit of ducks before they quit flying for the day.
Going into the next morning the wind wasn't going to be in our favor blowing from the north but we knew if we got set up right, we had a good chance at getting into them. It didn't take long for the birds to start flying and that is when we knew it was going to be a good morning. Small groups of mallards started working the decoys and we were getting our ducks one and two at a time, and by the time we had the downed birds picked up, more were working the decoys. It didn't take long and we had a two man mallard limit by 7:30. We worked several more groups or mallards hoping for our bonus ducks but we finally gave up after we killed 2 gadwall. It was a great two days of hunting but with the river going back down we knew that it was short lived, and the next day we got skunked.
The backwater disappeared but the cold weather didn't and we knew there were ducks around but finding them on big water would be the challenge. The next couple days didn’t fare well for us trying to get on the birds, but the weather finally broke off to single digits and we took off down the river in hopes of some luck. The river is a beast in its own but can be worth the risk if you are on the “X”. Again we were in for a banner day. The ducks piled in, in large groups and we had our mallards before 8:00. The divers and other ducks were nowhere to be seen. Even though we were watching ducks fly all over, we couldn’t manage to get close to a full limit, so we were more than happy to leave with our eight mallards.
The 2021-2022 season was a tough year but it is a few hunts with friends that can really make a season feel like it was successful, even if the numbers of ducks did not tally up like we had hoped. We look forward to the 2022-23 season and to more successful hunts, sunrises, and memories shared, because in the end that is what it is truly about.
Staffer - Jonathan Haverkamp