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Field Guide -Best Times to Hunt

The Best Times for Hunting Waterfowl

You'll find a variety of waterfowl to hunt in North America, with the most common being mallards. These birds are frequently hunted throughout the U.S. near bodies of water like lakes, rivers, ponds, swamps, and coastlines.

If you're a duck hunter, you know weather conditions are one of the main variables to consider when duck hunting. A change in wind and precipitation brought on by a cold front is every duck hunter's dream. However, these "fowl" days aren't the only variables that affect the behavior of waterfowl.

So, when is the best time for hunting waterfowl? Keep reading for our insights, then grab your gear and plan your next duck or goose hunt.

A hunter in the water with a shotgun and duck decoys, hunting waterfowl concept.

What to Consider When Hunting Waterfowl

Hunters must consider the location, duck species, migration patterns, time of day, and other factors that can drastically affect your likelihood of catching one of these beautiful birds in your sights. Here are a few things to consider.

The Location 

Location is a crucial factor to consider when hunting waterfowl. Where you are on the map will greatly influence the number and species of duck available to hunt.

Some states prove that fowl days are the best days to hunt, while others suggest otherwise, specifically those during migration patterns. 

For the best chances of bringing home plenty of duck or geese for your freezer this season, choose a prime waterfowl hunting state, like Louisiana or Mississippi.

The Solunar Calendar

Do ducks or geese care about how the moon is in the sky?

John Alden Knight had a theory in 1926. He believed animal movement is affected by the fullness and position of the moon – but does it apply to migratory birds?

It can.

Ducks and geese can become more active at night when there's a full moon, leaving fewer birds up and about during the day when you're hunting. A full moon can also trigger bird migrations. So, paying attention to the Solunar calendar when planning your waterfowl hunt can pay off.

The Time of Year

Waterfowl activity changes according to the time of year. Generally speaking, the best time of year to hunt ducks and geese is during the cold fronts of mid-fall. 

However, the location of the hunt and the species of duck will also affect the best hunting times. You'll also want to pay close attention to open-season dates when planning your goose or duck hunt.

The Time of Day

Many hunters believe that the best time to hunt for waterfowl is during the first hours of the morning after dawn. However, hunters who find that their most successful hunts happen in the afternoon or early evening have challenged that belief.

To make sure you hit the prime hunting times, consider weather patterns and species-specific behavior. HuntWise can help you monitor the weather and plan your hunt for a day when the weather is best for a successful hunt.

The Temperature

Along with weather conditions, temperature is another important factor that can drastically affect waterfowl movement.  

Many believe that waterfowl prefer cooler temperatures brought on by cold fronts. However, migratory timing and feeding patterns can make it harder to predict their movement based solely on temperature. 

Barometric Pressure

Low barometric pressure indicates that the local air pressure is lower than that in surrounding areas. Because low pressure is often a sign of coming precipitation, wind, or approaching fronts, it is typically ideal for hunting waterfowl. 

Again, use HuntWise and the app's weather forecasting tool to find the ideal days for hunting waterfowl.

General Weather Conditions

As we mentioned, general weather conditions are one of the main variables to consider when hunting ducks.

Duck hunters generally find that wet, cooler, overcast days create the best environment for duck movement. However, depending on your exact location and time of year, ducks may also be on the move during clear-sky days. 

The Wind 

The wind is a sure sign that ducks are on the move. However, depending on the strength and direction of the wind, it can both aid and detour your hunt.

For example, a strong southerly wind can slow the pace of the duck's flight, making them easier targets, while northerly winds can do the opposite. You may also need to adjust your sights when shooting based on the wind direction and speed.

Images of the HuntWise app showing insights into waterfowl hunting.

Use HuntWise to Plan the Best Days for Hunting Waterfowl

We hope these insights help you learn more about ducks and geese and the factors that can impact your hunt this season!

With HuntWise, you can take much of the guesswork out of when and where to hunt. The app delivers real-time animal behavior predictions, weather forecasting – up to 15 days for Elite subscribers – including ideal wind reports, and multiple map layers to help you scout and mark the best areas for your hunt.

If you're ready to bring home more ducks or geese this year, make sure you have HuntWise to help you make it happen. Download the app and explore every feature – free – during your first week.



Content last updated June 18, 2024. 

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