It's always important to remember the true reason for the holiday season as we all gather around the table to feast. Family and friends getting together to celebrate good fortune and, in the case of the original Thanksgiving, a good harvest is what's important.
Last week's celebration means much the same, with a few new traditions thrown in for good measure. Modern celebrating of the holidays may not be the same as in old times, but from spending time in the woods to watching football to eating, the basic idea is still the same - being with family and friends.
One thing that has changed is the main course. It has been said that the first Thanksgiving dinner didn't offer turkey, but just about every other wild meat that was available to early settlers. For the most part, waterfowl was an important part of the first Thanksgiving feast.
Now I am not sure if geese and duck were readily available to those who participated in the first Thanksgiving, but today's hunters do have some great waterfowl-hunting opportunities available to them during the holiday season.
With opening day of gun season for deer just a week old, I know that duck hunting is probably not what most hunters are thinking about. Spending some time overlooking a duck pot hole, pond or lake is a great way to break up those long sits in the deer woods.
Duck season is open for Western Zone hunters until Dec. 9 while goose hunters have until Dec. 13 in the Southern Goose Zone. For those late-season waterfowl hunters, the late season runs from Dec. 29 until Jan. 15 for geese and Jan. 13 for ducks.
Those late regular-season ducks and geese aren't the same easy call birds we worked in September and October. These birds are birds that have been called to and shot at from southern Canada to the Great Lakes. Knowing this basic information will help get these birds into the magic gun range - inside 40 yards.
From decoy spreads and placement to calling, these birds are more wary of anything out of place. We have found that smaller "family" group decoys catch more attention. Instead of those two or three family groups that we used early in the season, five to six "family" groups should be the minimum that is put out in a spread. Tossing a spinning wing-style decoy or jerk-cord movement in your spread will help bring those pressured birds into range.
The long-range forecast, which generally isn't correct but can be a guide, calls for mild temperatures through the middle of December. Finding open water is the key to later-season and late-season waterfowl hunting. If you have a pot hole with open water, you will have ducks and geese around it.
Decoying the later-season and late-season waterfowl can be difficult and it is a great time to throw everything in your bag at the them. Always keep in mind that the birds that we are chasing have been shot at up and down the coast. These are smart, wary birds that aren't the same as the ones that came to us directly during opening day.
Taking a break from chasing deer around might sound crazy, but a few years ago I discovered late regular-season waterfowl hunting. It has made my hunting season more enjoyable and relaxing.