The shot of cold that greeted Kentucky earlier in November pushed many waterfowl into the state, which meant a great opening to the waterfowl hunting season on Thanksgiving Day, November 28.

    "We have more birds early than we've had in a really long time, " 
said John Brunjes, migratory bird coordinator for the Kentucky 
Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. "We recently saw 20,000 to 
30,000 ducks at Ballard Wildlife Management Area (WMA). We are in a 
better spot that we've been this early in the season in a long time."
    Wes Little, migratory bird biologist for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife, 
said Sloughs WMA near Henderson held white-fronted and snow geese 
last week, likely pushed from the upper Midwest and Canada by the 
recent cold snap.
    The heavy rainfall across Kentucky early in 2019 resulted in the 
record pool level at Lake Cumberland and extremely late planting of 
crops for waterfowl on wildlife management areas in western Kentucky.
    "On some places such as Doug Travis WMA, the water from spring 
didn't come down until August,"  Brunjes said. "It was August 20. We 
just could not get into some areas until then. We try to plant crops 
when we can. High water was a common problem across the Mississippi 
Flyway."
    Brunjes said the good news is the wet conditions charged the moist 
soil habitat loved by waterfowl. "It is one of the best moist soil 
habitat years we've had,"  he said.  "The wild millet and smartweed 
in the moist soil areas should provide plenty of food for birds."
    Many Kentuckians cannot afford a duck boat, expensive decoys and 
other accessories necessary for hunting big waters. Farm ponds dot 
the landscape across the state and provide excellent hunting. Farmers 
with an abundance of birds, especially Canada geese, may welcome 
hunters to thin the numbers a bit.
    "For farm pond hunting, you need to find places where ducks roost 
and where they feed, then get permission to a pond in a travel 
corridor between these areas,"  Little said. "You want to be in line 
with the waterfowl."
    Little explained the two most important things for farm pond hunting 
are concealment and movement of the decoys. "Motion in your decoys is 
critical, never leave home without a jerk string," he said. 
"Spinning wing decoys may or may not work, but a jerk string never 
fails."
    Many of the ducks arriving at Kentucky farm ponds are migrating from 
the north and already educated by encounters with hunters. 
Concealment becomes paramount.
    "Most of our resident mallard ducks are park or city ducks, but the 
ones in rural areas are usually migrators,"  Little said. "Blinds 
made from natural vegetation work best. You need to spend as much 
time hiding yourself as you do placing decoys."
    Some welded wire fence, zip ties and natural vegetation such as tall 
grass or brush is all you need to build a waterfowl blind for farm 
pond hunting. Use the zip ties to attach the vegetation to the woven 
wire fence.              Those concerned about their calling prowess should 
not worry when farm pond hunting.
    "If you are where the ducks want to be, you don't have to call," 
Little said.  "When calling, less is sometimes more."
    Kentucky has more flowing water than just about any other state. 
Diligent scouting often reveals areas of a creek used by waterfowl as 
loafing spots or as travel corridors. These areas can provide 
excellent pass shooting as long as concealment hides the hunter from 
the birds.
    The first segment of duck season closed Dec. 1, but duck season 
opens again Dec. 7 and closes Jan. 31, 2020, which is new for the 
2019-2020 duck seasons.
    Previously, duck season closed on the last Sunday in January. 
Another change for this duck season is the lowering of the northern 
pintail daily bag limit from two birds to one.
    Goose season opened Nov. 28 and closes Feb. 15, 2020.
    The upcoming waterfowl season could be one of the best in years. 
Nothing beats hearing ducks splashing into a nearby pond on a cold 
winter morning.

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