Hard-weather duck hunt

Did I ever tell you that my favorite sport is duck hunting? It is and I hate to see the season end and that is why I chose to end the last days of Wisconsin’s duck season on a challenging canoe camping and duck hunting trip on the Mississippi River near Ferryville.

Sunday, Dec. 4

High 34, Low 27

So here is the deal. Until 24 hours ago I knew I would do this type of a trip but I did not know if I would put in at Trempealeau, Ferryville or somewhere in between.

Thanks to some of my buddies in The Coulee Chapter of KAMO’s [Kids and Mentors Outdoors’] advice, I chose to launch my canoe about four miles north of Ferryville and paddle until I found ducks and an island for my tent that was not underwater.

While I was loading my canoe I spoke with hunters from five different groups that came in from their morning hunt. Out of all of them only one drake mallard had been shot.

So I head south with a canoe loaded to the hilt with hunting and camping gear and two golden retrievers named Fire and Ruby. Due to a heavy deluge of rain four days ago the river is flowing fast and I am wondering how in the heck I will paddle back to the landing when this trip comes to an end.

My observations are marsh, islands (that are underwater), snow, cold, mud and not a duck in the sky. I paddle maybe two miles and find an island that is about 6 inches above sea level.

I began unloading my gear and naturally was wearing chest waders, and as I walk to land high enough for my tent to be on somewhat dry ground I am sinking 3-6 inches in the muck with each step.

I used a heavy tarp and put half on the ground, my tent on top of that and then put the rest of the tarp over my tent. Next, I put up my cot, my bedroll and lit a propane lantern to give me something warm to come home to.

I paddled about a mile in brisk and damp conditions, and found a spot where I figured ducks would fly over. When day became night I had not fired my 12-gauge 11-87.

I have been burning the midnight lantern for seven months and was in my sleeping bag by 7:30.

Monday, Dec. 5

High 37, Low 25

You know you are a duck hunter when from inside of your tent, long before daylight, you take the mud off your chest waders and paint your face.

I knew I had to scout for ducks which meant traveling in the dark by canoe. I found my version of paradise two miles from camp which was a point with big water on one side and puddler country on the other.

I set my dad’s scaup decoys in the big water and 20 mallards in the puddler country. I passed a Susie who landed in my scaup setup. Five minutes later I dropped a scaup in the same spot.

Ruby made a less then perfect retrieve but considering she was not born until this past May and was enjoying the swim I was happy.

Bad luck came my way when four times I emptied my 12-gauge at flying ducks and nothing fell out of the sky. I have several wrestling injuries from “instigators at deer camp” and so I was sitting while shooting and that never works for me.

I started standing and a flock of goldeneye flew over and I dropped a beautiful hen. Next, a greenhead flew over and I put a hurting on him and Ruby made a first-rate-inbig water retrieve.

I am starting to think a limit which is like extremely cool, given everything that you have already read about in this story, when a gadwall flies over and I send it to the river and Fire shows Ruby how to retrieve a duck.

Not five minutes later a drake goldeneye flies over and it goes down with one shot and Ruby does not hesitate to fetch it.

Ruby dropped the goldeneye in my hand and I look up and here comes a shoveler and bang, I got me a limit. After standing up I did not miss a duck.

While breaking camp Ruby caught and dispatched a muskrat, the canoe trip upriver to the truck was quite physical and did I mention that I love to duck hunt?

Oh yeah and now that it’s politically OK to say this again, Merry Christmas!


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