John's Journal...

Short-Stopping Ducks

Why So Many Ducks Stop in Missouri

Click to enlargeEditor’s 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 amouClick to enlargent 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 ducks?Click to enlarge
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 and didnClick to enlarge’t 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 like corn.

To learn more about Avery Outdoors’ waterfowling products, go to

Tomorrow: A Weird Hunt

Check back each day this week for more about "Short-Stopping Ducks"

Day 1: Why So Many Ducks Stop in Missouri
Day 2: A Weird Hunt
Day 3: Why Use the Train-Wreck-Type Decoy Spread
Day 4: Why Only Greenheads
Day 5: How Weather Affects Ducks



Entry 384, Day 1