It’s getting dark at 5:15. All the leaves are down. Hell, Thanksgiving is already a week away. The 2010 duck season is getting down to the wire. Pretty soon we’ll be breaking ice to set the decoys and thawing out the retriever in front of a propane heater in our blinds. Zeus and I headed up to Saginaw Bay for Duck Camp with some buddies before the weather turned. Then we headed north to test my luck, and patience, for the opening day of the whitetail rifle season.
A decent drawing landing us in the flooded corn in Fish Point on Saturday morning. In the 45 minutes it took us to set up we constantly had birds overhead. I could hardly see them against the black clouds but you could almost feel the air pushed off the bottoms of their wings. Curious to get a good look at the flock, I pointed my 1 million candle-watt spot light into the air. HUNDREDS of birds flared from the beam. I was convinced this was going to be an awesome hunt until shooting time began. With the gun loaded, the sky emptied. Late-season educated mallards know how to handle the managed areas. They eat at night and pour into the refuge to rest all day. We even watched mallards fly in from the bay over the roads avoiding hunters on their way to the safe-zone.
Out of four guys we managed to knock down a pair of buffies, including this nice drake, out of a flock of about 10. It was great to have Zeus back from the IR. He tracked down both of those wounded birds. Buffs are tough little bastards and tried diving to escape. Zeus went completely underwater about a dozen times before coming up with those ducks. He was a little cold for the rest of the morning but his tail never stopped wagging. His drive never ceases to amaze me. From the flooded corn fields we put on some orange and found a grassy plot which looked likely for pheasants. We flushed one huge hen out of some thick cover but didn’t see a single rooster.
After lunch we headed out to the big water out of Bay Port. We motored our canoes to a rocky point just outside of the marina. I had just finished setting the spread when Dusty noticed that Zeus was bleeding pretty bad. He cut one of his pads while pheasant hunting and really opened it up on the rocks on the island. My first aid kit was a mile away in the truck. Geno saved the day with a few gauze pads and a self-adhesive bandage, which I will always carry from now on. When I made a long shot on a redhead, Zeus didn’t hesistate to get that bandage wet. Unfortunately the duck dove never to be seen again.
After the hunt we had a few beers and some great pizza the Riverside Bar in Caseville. We made plans to head back to Fish Point in the morning to see if some new birds had moved in during the day. Hopefully these ducks wouldn’t be so wise to the ways of the refuge.
The wind was whipping as we pushed the canoes through the marsh in the dark. A single duck jumped out the water as we approached the blind. In the dim light I could see his slender neck. I hit him with the spotlight. It was a fully plumed drake Pintail, a wall-hanging trophy for sure. Unfortunately, that was the closest I’d be to a duck the rest of the weekend. We sat in the blind watching thousands of ducks circle the refuge for the next 2 1/2 hours but never fired a shot.
The blind was nice to block the wind and keep Zeus up out of the water. But limited cover made us stick out like a CEO in Wal-Mart. We took the action shot above just to give you the idea of what it might have looked like when a big flock of mallards set into the spread. Come on. It was cold. We had to do something to keep our spirits up. I packed the truck and headed to Alpena for Deer Camp. Of course, on the way, I saw a big fat rooster pheasant along the side of M-25 on the way to Bay City. Ain’t that the way it always goes.
Man, deer hunting is boring. This was my view from 6:30 am-5:30 pm and I didn’t see a single deer. The most exciting moment of the day was a mouse dropping off the ceiling of the blind and landing on my arm. It scared the crap out of me. But the adrenaline rush was enough to keep me awake for most of the morning.
So I didn’t get a limit of ducks or a trophy whitetail. But I had a great time with some of my favorite hunting buddies, watched Zeus punish some ducks on new water and put over 600 miles on the truck without leaving the state.
I can’t wait until Sunday when I attempt to track down some divers on big waters in Southeast Michigan.