One of the surest ways to lure ducks during the late season is to create open space by breaking the ice on frozen-over bodies of water. For the best results, however, you need to get rid of the ice chunks that remain. As world-champion duck caller Buck Gardner once told me, “Ducks won’t land in your hole if it looks like a mixed drink.”
Here are four ways to do it right:
** 1 You can break thin ice** with a boat simply by motoring over it. The key is to approach your hunting spot from the downwind side, opening a channel where the ice chunks can drift away. Then run the boat in a circle to open a good-size hole, where you’ll put your decoy spread. Finally, position the bow up against a solid object-the bank, the blind, or a tree-and hold it there while you trim up the engine and run the motor back and forth to push the ice out of the hole.
**2 If you are a walk-in hunter, **try to break the ice into large sheets. A square-bladed shovel works well for this. Then slide the sheets under the unbroken ice.
3 In very shallow water, such as a flooded field, break the ice by walking on it or driving an ATV over it. A garden rake works perfectly for clearing out the chunks.
4 If you hunt from a permanent blind and think the water may freeze overnight, pull in your decoy spread to make ice-breaking easier the next day. Better yet, don’t let the hole freeze. Some hunters put a crosspiece on their blind where they can mount an outboard or trolling motor and leave it running overnight to keep the water moving. This may seem a bit extreme, and you’ll need a big gas tank or charged-up battery to run the motor all night, but it will pay off in the morning when you’ve got the only open water for miles around.