Why So Many Ducks Stop in Missouri
Note: Missouri has become one of the top duck states
in the nation. Many waterfowl hunters wonder why so
many ducks stop in Missouri and Illinois and not come
further south. To learn the answer to this question,
we went to Missouri and hunted with Avery Pro Staff
Team member, Tony Vandemore of Kirksville, Missouri.
We also wanted to know how Vandemore takes a limit of
ducks almost every day of the season.
Question: Tony, how long have you been hunting ducks?
Vandemore: I don’t know exactly, but my mother
told me that my dad and uncle started carrying me to
their duck blinds when I was still wearing diapers.
Question: Why are there so many ducks in Missouri?
Vandemore: The number-one reason is the Missouri Department
of Conservation. Our state uses 1/8 of a 1-percent sales
tax for conservation purposes. We also have a tremendous
of public lands designated for hunting. Missouri is
one of the top-five states for having the most public
lands designated for hunting in the nation. On these
public lands, the Missouri Department of Conservation
plants plenty of food for wildlife. For the ducks, they
mainly plant flooded cornfields. We have plenty of waterfowl
refuges that hold birds during the winter months and
several major river systems that don’t freeze
up, regardless of how cold the weather becomes. Our
state also raises a tremendous amount of corn and grain,
and we have a lot of duck clubs that raise corn and
flood their fields. So, there’s a tremendous amount
of food, open water and sanctuary here for ducks.
Question: Tony, on the first day I hunted with you,
we had 70-degree weather in the morning, and then the
weather changed dramatically. The area had rain, and
the temperature dropped down to 17 degrees. What effect
does a dramatic weather change like that have on the
Vandemore: In one 24-hour period, the weather went from
warm to cold, from rain to sleet to snow, and from no
snow on the ground to 17 inches of snow. A dramatic
weather change like that puts the ducks in a state of
chaos. The ducks have to eat before bad weather hits,
and they seem to have some type of mechanism in their
brains that alerts them to oncoming bad weather. When
that weather front starts to move, the ducks begin to
pour into the flooded corn fields and dry corn fields
to feed up ahead of a front. Where we hunted in Missouri
we had ducks that had been here for two or three weeks
and weren’t moving very much. When we had those
70-degree days, the ducks seemed to only move about
once every two days. But with a dramatic weather change
like we had in late November, every duck in the region
started looking for something to eat. We found a place,
apparently where a corn picker had turned around and
spilled a lot of grain on the ground, and the ducks
wouldn’t leave that feed area. When the snow came
in that afternoon, after our shoot, the ducks locked-up
move until late afternoon on the second day. So, we
decided not to even go out to look for them until 9:00
or 10:00 am. We didn’t even start hunting until
after 2:00 pm, once we found the ducks. On the first
day we hunted together, we had a really-good migration.
I’d learned over the years that after a major
migration, the ducks seemed to rest in the morning and
not feed until late in the afternoon. They’d been
flying all day and hunting feed. When that bad weather
hit and their bellies were full, they usually would
stay in the refuges and other sheltered places until
after the bad weather passed.
Question: On the first day we hunted, you decided to
hunt dry fields rather than open water. Why?
Vandemore: The day before a front hits, you almost can
hunt anywhere because the ducks are on the move. But
as we observed when we hunted, a lot of the ponds and
the waterways were beginning to freeze-up, the dry fields
were easily accessible to the ducks, and the fields
still had plenty of corn in them that hadn’t been
covered by snow. On the first day we hunted, there wasn’t
any flooded corn. It was simply a dry field with plenty
of corn in it. As the weather begins to get cold here
in Missouri, ducks are looking for high-protein food
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products, go to www.averyoutdoors.com.
Tomorrow: A Weird Hunt