Despite the full moon, the morning ride to our duck spot on Lac qui Parle was dark and foggy. We had a hard-to-find slough scouted that held blue-wing teal, wood ducks and even a few mallards. An ominous scene played out within the reach of our swamp light as faint cattails would appear and disappear into the heavy fog. Welcome to the 2013 Waterfowl opener!
I’d been anticipating this day for about 10 months-or however long ago last season ended. I love hunting ducks. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll walk for pheasants and sit in a tree with my bow any day. In fact, I’ll like to combine and do all three in one day (like this day last fall).
I practiced calling. I worked my dog daily in the backyard. My licenses were purchased in the spring. (Aside from one tiny little expensive detail. Read about that here. My bad.)
Our ride out would include two Beavertail boats, filled with a variety of decoys, dogs and hunters. Rick Alsen from Beavertail, his son Blake and myself bounced along in one boat, while Chuck Ellingson from Watson Hunting Camp, piloted the other with my brother Wade Amundson and his son Dan on board.
Four labs would be along each day, Alsen’s 11 1/2-year-old Sonic and 6-month-old Diesel.
Ellingon’s 1 1/2-year-old Benelli would make the trip Saturday.
His 9 1/2-year-old Morgan made the journey Sunday.
Wade Amundson’s 9-year-old Casey came out on Saturday.
And finally my 2 1/2-year-old, Mika came along Sunday.
Hunting is just more fun with dogs!
We arrived at our secret location early. As we began to place decoys, bobbing headlamps appeared in the woods. Someone had made the 2 mile walk that we avoided by taking boats. That’s dedication. They would set up about 100 yards north of us however. Not ideal.
Soon, more headlamps would appear and another spread was set up on the other side of our slough. Our secret, hard to reach, duck slough had turned into a Vikings Tailgating parking lot.
Such is life on public land.
10 minutes before our watch signaled legal shooting time, the area exploded with gunfire. There were hunters everywhere! And once the first hunter broke the rules and shot early, it seemed to give the ok to everyone else in the county to unload. We like to see what we’re shooting, plus we had two young hunters with us and waited patiently until the alarm sounded. Then it was a flurry of swerving ducks, gunfire from all sides and splashing dogs happily bounding head first into the swamp.
Highlights included a colorful drake woodie that came straight at us. A well-timed shot knocked the duck right into the branches of a nearby tree. He pinballed his way to the ground, while it snowed feathers for a good 4 or 5 minutes. Can you say “smoked”?
The favorite moment of the weekend may have been watching both boats getting a full head of steam and launching off a beaver dam to get into our honey hole.
We finished with a respectable number of ducks, despite competing with 2 other nearby spreads.
The second day would prove to be slower, but there was no shortage of other gunners, (and some pre-legal shooting time salvos). Again we waited, even with a young teal swimming through the decoys.
The next couple of hours would include Mika hogging all the retrieves, not that there too were many. We had picked a new location in hopes that we’d have a bit more seclusion. Our hopes were dashed the moment another boat pulled up and set up 100 yards away from us once again.
That’s how it goes and if you don’t shrug it off, then you’re taking it too seriously. It’s funny how we can all be friends at the local Ducks Unlimited banquet, but the moment you’re in the blind, they better not come within a 10 mile radius.
Overall I’m happy with how the opener went. Lots of ducks were seen as were duck hunters. We’ll have to wait for the numbers from the DNR, but it sure seemed like there was an increase in participation from both on this years opener. That’s a step in the right direction.
Make sure you get out and hunt this year, but be prepared for anything. Oh, and buy your Federal Duck Stamp.