Occasionally I’ll lurk on duck hunting message boards to pick up tidbits and to make sure I’m up to date on what people are discussing. One of the questions I’ve often seen people ask is whether duck hunting is better or worse in the rain. On Thursday, Dec. 8, 2015 I got a chance to see for myself.
Choosing the Blind
I had an early lottery pick at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge on the day that the second of four big rainstorms was to hit the Portland metro area and Southwest Washington during a week. My hunting partners for the day, Scott and Phil, didn’t seem too eager to choose a pit blind for this hunt. The forecast said it would rain much of the day, with some of it quite heavy. Instead, after the #1 pick chose the hottest blind, 17, we opted for Blind 16, which I had hunted a few days earlier with some success. Blind 16 is a box blind so even though we wouldn’t get as much action we wouldn’t have to sit the rain all day, either.
After our pick we parked and packed out to the blind, which sits in the southern end of a larger pond, basically surrounded by water. The previous hunt we had set our decoys in the coves on either side of the blind, leaving flyways between them and the blind and leaving the water in the front of the blind completely open. I suggested we do the same this time, too, as we had a constant wind from the south of this north-facing blind, meaning we would get ducks attempting to land into the wind and coming right at the blind.
Three hunters in these smaller box blinds can feel a little cozy so we decided to allow only two of us shoot at a time while they other blew a call or ate a snack. That would allow some elbow room for swinging guns and avoid any spats about who downed what duck.
We had a few ducks dump into our spread before legal shooting time, but they flew away about five minutes before it. A few minutes after LST, our first duck flew in, but we missed it. In fact, we missed on our first three opportunities, leaving a bunch of empty shotgun shells floating in the water with nothing to show for it.
Finally, Phil dropped a Shoveler that attempted to land in the spread to the left of the blind. During the next hour or so we were able to drop another Shoveler, but we were not seeing a lot of birds around, mostly just locals dodging blinds on the refuge. It wasn’t until the rains came that the action started to pick up.
The Rain Changed the Game
One of the positions I’ve read from hunters who hunt east of the Cascades is that duck hunting isn’t as good when it rains. Hunters on the west side of the mountains (the wet side), posit that rain is good for waterfowling. I’m a definite “wet-sider” and look forward to a rainy day as the ducks seem to move around in between the squalls. Unless you’re getting an all-day drencher, you can expect some pretty good hunting during the rain breaks. The good wind also helps a duck hunt.
Thanks to El Nino, we were in the middle of a river of moisture dumping on us from the warmer-than-usual Pacific. In fact, during this hunt it stayed in the mid-50s all day, downright balmy for this time of year. The bulk of the rain was due about 2pm but we still had a number of good squalls and soakers blow through and it was during one of these soakers that I saw a number of migrating flocks of Shovelers, Pintail, and Widgeon flying right through the worst of the rain. We even hit a couple of Shovelers during a dumper.
Still, most of the action happened when the rain slacked off, and by the time we left the blind as the bulk of the rain moved in we were happy with the consistent action and number of ducks we got to see, if not shoot at.
Most of all we were happy that we didn’t have to soak in a pit all day!
Yes, ducks do fly in the rain. We hunt during the river of moisture at Ridgefield with mixed success.
Location: Ridefield National Wildlife Refuge, Blind 16
Conditions: Mostly rainy, occasional breaks and deluges
Birds Taken: 7 for 3 hunters (5 Northern Shovelers, a Ringneck, and a Pintail Drake.)