By: Danny Amundson
Duck hunters start to yearn for this weekend as soon as the previous season ends. For some, it’s considered a holiday.
This is the Minnesota Duck opener.
Things were no different for my dad and me. Shells were bought, guns were cleaned, decoys were sorted, spots were scouted, and plans were made. We’d spend this year’s opener in a new area- about three hours northwest of the Twin Cities. We would be joined by Duane Johnson and his youngest son, Ethan. Ethan just bought himself a new 12 gauge and couldn’t wait to put it to the test.
We had permission to a private slough that had been holding Teal, Mallards, and the occasional Woodduck. The plan was to head up right after school ended and put our decoys out the night before to make things a little easier in the morning. Road construction held things up a little bit, but we arrived just as the sun went down and quickly set our spread. Not a duck was seen during the drive or during our set up. That made us a little worried for what to expect for the morning. Where were they? Would the full moon screw things up?
Since we wouldn’t be competing with anyone for a spot, and the decoys were already set, we set our alarm clocks a little later than most hunters probably did. Actually, most hunters probably wouldn’t need an alarm clock. Sleep would be tough to come by as adrenaline was pumping. Morning came, and we made our short drive out to the slough. Turns out we’d be pretty fortunate to have a private slough. Every public spot we drove by had multiple cars in it.
We got set up about ten minutes before we could legally shoot. Of course, there’s the early shot. As soon as one person shoots, it all begins. We found out what World War Three would sound like. We wouldn’t get any ducks in the spread for another twenty minutes. A pair of drake Woodies started off the day. Only one left. The other patiently awaited a complimentary ride to shore from one of our Labs. Then the chaos started.
“There’s four on the right.”
“Oh! Right over our heads!”
“Shoot those! But don’t shoot the dog!”
“Dang it! Stop swimming through the jerk cord!”
Ducks were bombing in left and right; dogs were out in the spread; and things were a little crazy. Pretty soon, we’d get a little lull and were able to get organized. In the first 45 minutes, we had fifteen ducks. I would have been content with ten for the entire day. The ducks would continue to work the spread for the next couple of hours. Things were just about picture perfect. The ducks were decoying right in our faces; the wind and the sun were at our backs, and we had ducks on the ground. We would end the morning two ducks short of our four-man limit. A mix between Mallards, both Blue and Green Winged Teal, Woodducks, Gadwall, and a good ol’e Spoonbill would fill our bags. If it weren’t for some rusty shooting, (myself included) we would have had a limit no doubt. But I couldn’t have asked for a better opener.
Echo and Casey, our Yellow Labs, once again showed why I won’t ever hunt without a dog. Over the weekend, we would have multiple cripples sail across the slough. We wouldn’t have had a chance at getting them without the dogs. They made the swim across the pond and chased them down, followed by a few fist pumps from my dad and me.
Sunday morning would be similar to Saturday. My dad and I would have to leave at about 8:30. We would have some slight chaos again, but improved shooting would result in another 16 ducks before we left. On our way home we heard that Duane and Ethan had put two more Mallards on the ground. A perfect way to end a great weekend.
I never thought we’d see this many birds after what we had seen on Friday afternoon. This weekend definitely exceeded my expectation. The comment “Best opener ever” was even uttered a few times by my dad. And for a guy who’s been hunting for over 30 years, you know it was a good one. It was an absolute great start to the 2015 season. It should be a pretty sweet season.
How’d did you do this weekend? Remember you can send in your pictures to be featured on our Duck Board.
Looks like an awesome time! Our opener in Western New York isn’t until October 24th. I can’t wait!