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Hoping For Another Annual Northern Waterfowl Hunt
It was a beautiful 4th of July weekend. We spent time in church remembering our founding fathers and the price they paid for the freedoms we still enjoy in this country, and then we switched gears and remembered the price that Christ paid for our freedom from the slavery of sin. On Saturday we boated the Mark Twain Lake which had risen twenty feet over the past week and a half. It meant that you had to keep a watchful eye for floating limbs and logs in the water but it wasn’t terrible, and one should always be aware of what may be floating the water especially if you are pulling skiers or tubers. We took Sunday off from the boat, but Monday found us back on the lake. It seems that once the 4th of July is past, that summer may not be over but things begin speeding up and when the county fair is past so is summer. I speeded up things even more this year as once we were home and had unpacked the truck and put the towels and other wet clothes in the washer, we went to the computer room and began filling out the applications for our group to hopefully get drawn to hunt waterfowl in South Dakota later this October.
Filling out those applications and submitting them only means one thing: despite the heat, fall is coming. With the approach of fall the preparation only increases. There will be a couple days to cut brush for the blind as well as evicting the wasps who think that the blind is theirs as no one was living there when they found it and set up housekeeping. Besides working on the blind, I will also take the decoys down out of the loft and take them out into the yard and power wash them and even do a little scrubbing. It’s not that they are really dirty it is more that they may have a scum line which developed when they sat in the water for a couple months. I don’t think the real ducks see the scum, but it just bothers me. A few decoys might have to be replaced if have taken a few pellets. I will also replace the decoy lines if necessary. Speaking of decoys, I also added a half dozen Lifetime mallard decoys to my decoy bag that gets taken to South Dakota. Each spring my dear wife hears me say, “Well, at least I do not need any more decoys this year.” And then somehow, I get weak and have to get the latest and greatest decoy that must be durable as well as light in order to be packed into those South Dakota potholes.
As fall nears, I will begin spending more time with my duck and goose calls. Since I no longer have to drive to work, I can spend time at home practicing with my calling. I usually go through a calling session as if I’m calling to real ducks by starting with the louder high ball calling as if I’m getting their attention and asking them to come over and join the party. From there I might begin calling softer and giving feeding chatter or even quieter and quicker hail calls. Then I give my quacks when I am trying to get them to settle into the decoy spread. Immediately I might break into the whole sequence again as if they saw something and were beginning to leave. If I don’t have my calls with me while I’m driving, I often pretend to call using my voice just to get the cadence of their calling down. That’s when you know you have fowl obsessions: when you start pretending you’re calling with your own voice. I normally do not do this in the presence of others, as they will put you away and have you identify ink blots. They all look like ducks to me anyway!
A few final things to do before opening morning is to check out your shot gun. If the last thing you hunted was snow geese in the spring where a plug is not required, make sure that you have put the plug back in. Also make sure that you removed all the lead shot ammunition if you used the blind bag for those crow hunts late last winter. Make sure you have all the permits required as things change. I can tell you that I have seen fellow hunters panic and head to the store the night before to purchase permits that they didn’t know even existed until someone in camp mentioned it. I have also bought the federal duck stamp the day before the waterfowl opener. I do not want to spend precious hunting time waiting for a sporting goods store or the post office to open up to buy a stamp. We have to do it when traveling with our labs out of state, so it’s a good idea to always have it on hand and that’s the rabies certificate. I have been checked a couple times in South Dakota and they’ve never asked for it, but the law says I am required to have it on my person, so I have it on my person.
The waterfowl seasons will kick off with teal season which opens on September 11th and runs through the 26th. Following the teal season will be the early Canada goose season which will run October 2nd through the 10th. Following our early Canada Goose season, I will be heading out with friends for a 3-day hunt in South Dakota for waterfowl in October. This will be almost completely different from our waterfowl hunting here at home from a blind. With a blind, you hunt with almost as many decoys as you wish. While hunting walk-in marshes, your decoy numbers are limited by how many you can comfortably carry or how many younger friends you have to be your pack mules. Because these pack in decoys get put out a couple times a day it’s important that the lines do not tangle and do not become a mess in the decoy bag. When you jump ducks out of a pothole, they may leave but return very quickly. Time is of the essence as you must get the decoy spread out and get hidden as fast as possible. Because of this, I use Texas rigs on these decoys. There is a snap on the line that attaches to the keel of the decoy and the line has the ability to slide through the snap. On one end of the line is a loop that is fastened to a carabiner and that is how they are stored. The other end has a weight, usually 4 ounces. When you unsnap the decoy from the carabiner, you simply toss it out onto the water and the weight slides down that snap until it rests on the bottom. It is a very fast and effective way to toss out a lot of decoys quickly.
If we are successful in the drawing for South Dakota, once we get back home our first waterfowl hunt will be on October 23rd and 24th and it will be the Missouri Youth Waterfowl weekend, which is always a fun time. Finally, the regular waterfowl season will open on October 30th and run through December 28th. On November 11th, the regular Canada goose season opens and runs through February 6th. As always be sure and check out those dates yourself either via the Internet or by picking up a waterfowl digest from a licensed vendor.
So, in a couple months if you see less of me on the road than you did during the summer, my hours will have changed and I’ll be leaving home at 5:00 a.m. or earlier and coming home mid-day, but I love it.