His name is Hunter. He’s a certified sky-watching, marsh-loving, straight-shooting, waterfowl chasing outdoor fanatic. And he’s only 13 years old.
I’ve known Hunter for pretty much his entire life. Our families have been friends for years and his dad was my first hunting idol. Mike dropped more waterfowl, whacked more bucks and flushed more upland birds then I’ll ever see in my lifetime. He taught me how to work labs on grouse and woodcock. How to identify ducks in the air. And how to find roosting turkeys. He is a legend among my closest circle of hunting buddies. But like many legends, Mike left work to do when he passed before his time. His legacy, his son, carries the torch with the same fire in his belly that’s only satisfied by getting out in the field. Bird hunting is in this kids DNA. I played guide this past Sunday to get Hunter out in the marsh for the Youth Waterfowl Hunting Weekend here in Michigan.
Hunter’s dedicated mom met me at a gas station at 4:45 am. We pulled into the DNR station on Harsen’s Island about 5 minutes before the drawing. Flooded corn fields and marshes create a fantastic refuge holding ducks year-around. The hunting can be hit-or-miss but when it’s good…well…it’s damn good. The drawing, or duck-bingo, gives everyone a shot at the best fields. There were only five groups in the drawing. Every kid in there stood beaming with excitement as their numbers were pulled from a Styrofoam bucket. We picked one of the marsh areas close to a levy on Little Muscamoot Bay in Lake St. Clair. Birds were passing overhead as we set the decoys. We hid the boat in the tall marsh grass, set-up the blind and watched a blue-wing teal streak by at the speed of sound.
We sat there hopeful that the ducks would start moving. They didn’t cooperate. We heard some sporadic shooting but the hunting pressure wasn’t enough to get the birds up and moving. Their daily patterns are uninterrupted by the urge to migrate. They slowly filtered off of the roost and into the bay to feed. Just when I thought we were going to get skunked, Hunter barked in that hushed tone that is music to every waterfowl hunters ears. A flock of 8-10 birds, wings cupped, locked onto the decoys came in from left to right. The little feathered-jets flared only when I called out to take the shot. Hunter stood up, shot once and dropped his first ringed-neck duck.
We used a variety of decoys on this hunt, but kept the spread small at 25 blocks. Mallard, widgeon, Canada goose, wood duck, teal and a couple pintail decoys drew those ring-necks right in. We also had two mojo mallards to throw some irresistible motion to the spread.
One big Canada goose almost met Hunter’s Remington 1187. The bird circled a few times, saw something he didn’t like and flew off. A few quick pleading moans turned him on a dime. He came straight at the boat but flared at 45 yards. I called the shot but Hunter was uncomfortable trying that big bird at that distance with his 20 ga. What a sportsman. That bird flared because the goose blocks were not close enough to the boat. It was easy for the goose to figure out that the calling wasn’t coming from geese on the water. If you throw a few goose blocks in your water spread, but them close to the blind for a more realistic presentation.
The birds quit flying so we packed up and did some scouting in the big bay. Young hunters were heading in with their birds. Pintail, teal, mallards, divers and geese were held up and shown off, a ritual which never gets old among hunters….bragging. Hunter and I found a good spot to try during next years youth hunting weekend. But I’m pretty sure we’ll be stacking ducks together a few more times before this season is over.