Duck fever is setting in. Right on time.
It was that first string of 90 degree days. I hate summer. Heat makes me miserable. I was sweating on my couch when I suddenly decided that I NEED a new pair of heavy-duty, 5mm, Neoprene, Camo Waders.
But first, I need to fix the axle on the trailer for the trip to North Dakota. And get a new camo cover for the Northern Flight blind. I could use a new duck call. Something acrylic. Double reed of course.
Suddenly I’m staring at Mack’sPrairieWings.com.
The switch flipped in my brain. I’ve been obsessed with fishing since December. Now I can’t get ducks out of my head. Waterfowl season is just a few months away but I wish it started tomorrow. This retro-post of one of my favorite duck hunts from 2009 will, hopefully, dull the pain
Uncle Mike emailed me the pictures. An icy picnic table stacked with Canvasbacks. I clicked through the images with proud envy. I was happy for him but I’ve only shot one Can in my life. My Dad had yet to scratch one down. But here’s Mike with 4 perfect bull Cans laid out next to a bunch of mallards. I want to go to there.
My Dad and I met Mike and our host Sammy at the Duck Shack that following November. The drive from Detroit was short. Under two hours. It would have been shorter if we didn’t spend so much time with the boarder authorities. Here’s some advice. Don’t take any tests at your doctor’s office that involve radioactive dye then attempt to cross the boarder into Canada. They’ll assume you’re hiding weapons of mass destruction in your decoy bag.
The plan was to meet the guide at the dock around 5 am. We got to the house at dusk the night before. We drove out to the water and checked out the battle vessel at the marina. Then retired to cigars, smoked pheasant and scotch to prepare for the morning.
Rob, our guide, was knocking on the door at 4:45 am. I was already out of bed and ready to ride. We loaded up the boat, I said a silent prayer to ward off seasickness and we headed out.
We set what seemed to be 500 decoys as the sun lifted over the trees. The waves started building.
The wind picked up pushing flocks around the bay. The timing was perfect. We hunkered down in the boat. Motionless. Waiting for Rob to call the shot. My heart just pounding in my ears.
“Take this pair. Comin’ in on the right. Reds. Stand-up. Shoot.” Rob’s instructions proved he’d done this a million times before. Within a few minutes of legal shooting time we had ducks in the boat.
No calls. No spinning wing decoy. The set-up was so simple. Just a boat covered in branches positioned downwind from a bunch of blocks. The ducks couldn’t help themselves.
“More reds. Right here. Get up. Take ’em.”
It seemed like every time the guns popped birds fell. After shooting a box of shells in 30 minutes I made the conscious effort to slow down and enjoy this morning. This was going to be a hell of a trip.
The sun emerged from the clouds and the ducks took a short break. Dad took the chance to light up a cigar but didn’t get half way through it before Rob spotted another flock.
“Out there guys. Gray ducks. Don’t miss boys.”
Canvasbacks. A small flock of 4 or 5. Within seconds they rode the wind from the horizon to the boat. I stared at them over my barrel just dumbfounded by their speed and size. I picked a bull, put a 12 foot lead on him and stopped the gun to watch him fall. I missed. That’s when Rob introduced me to some international language.
“F*ck-All. You missed them.” What a perfect combination of words to describe that very moment. F*ck-All indeed sir.
The wind kept getting stronger keeping the ducks in the sky and making me question my sea-legs. Just when I thought I’d get sick more birds would streak over the spread. Somehow I’d feel instantly better.
We shot our limit of Redheads in under an hour. We had to wait for “small ducks and gray’s” to finish out the day.
We got our chance at both. Sammy and my Dad each bagged a nice bull Can. Mike and I took care of the buffleheads.
The group shot really well. We were limited out in under two hours but the birds kept piling into the spread. We got back to the dock in a hurry to leave the birds alone for the lucky group of hunters booked for the afternoon shoot.
Duck season can’t get here soon enough.
I read your piece and relived the entire experience again and it was about as good as the actual experience. I am ready to go again right now – in fact, I think i’ll read it again and re-live it again.
Memories can fade, pushed away bynew mwmories or what we think is important at the moment. thans for the jolt – the reminder, it was one of the best times of my hunting life. I remember, the escitement, the duck shack, the meal, cigars, scotch, bunkbeds, snoring, cold weather, lots of ducks flying, shooting 3 boxes of shells, cigars and a group of friends that is worth more than a milliion bucks!
I agree. It was one of the best hunts of my life. Glad I got to share it with some sharp shooters, great cooks and providers of the cigars. And in just a couple months we’ll be chasing geese again in that early season. You ready?
Loved this post! I have ALWAYS wanted to shoot a can, but they aren’t in my neck o’ the woods. Great story and pics! Thanks!…back to the Cabelas catalog…
Thanks for the note and thanks for stopping by.