Sugar with a greenhead.
Clearly every waterfowl season is different. It’d be great if our favorite spots produced consistently from year to year, but it doesn’t always work out that way- conditions change and force us to adapt. It may sound obvious but if there is one thing we’ve learned over the years it’s this: Follow the birds!
This year we’re experiencing drought conditions in the west, brought on by a winter of little snow followed by a summer with hardly any rain. There was six to eight more inches of water on the mud flats along the Great Salt Lake last year, and there were birds using it everywhere. Not so much this year. There are plenty of ducks and geese, they just have fewer places to go. As a result, the birds are sketchy and more sensitive to hunting pressure,which is more normal for sure.
Teal tracks on the mud flats.
Teal, pintails, and mallards feed on a variety of food on the mud flats: alkali bullrush seeds, algae, salicornia, and midges make up most of their diet. The birds love to get into areas that have recently flooded. Recent scouting and reports from friends confirmed the birds were using an area that has recently received some water through a series of culverts. As expected, there wasn’t as much water in the area as we’d hoped for, but enough to make a great looking spread. We deployed SoftShell mallards on the exposed mud flats, with foamers for the floaters.
Softshell decoys and floaters on the mud flats (click to enlarge).
The shooting was anything but fast, but we had a great morning watching mallards, pintails, teal and shovelers come into the spread.
Our conditions are changing rapidly as the weather gets colder and more irrigation water is being released on the mud flats. I have a feeling we’ll be hunting a lot of different locations depending on where the birds go, adaptability is critical to success this season.
Lucas with a greenhead from the mud flats.