Awhile back Internet priorities needed some "adjustment". The intention was to keep my dogs in shape and refocus time issues. I just couldn't do as much and our autistic Granddaughter became a major focus. Hunting was not shorted, but the dogs became more of a maintenance mode effort. Here's the first of two journal stories about this year's hunting season. My wife has been very supportive about "being gone" once in awhile.
The second split of the Iowa Openers was hectic. Most everyone is out early and many camp overnight on a shorelines or even in their boat blinds. After scouting the day before, we (Daisy and I) left at 2 am and soon discovered the spot I wanted was already taken.
The wind would have been in my face so I was not all that disappointed. After thinking over the possibility of a long run north, I decided to hunt the north end of the same island. There is an ideal "pile of logs" to snuggle the Migrator into. It was an easier hunt, too. The shallow, sandy point vs. the deep mud on the other end was a plus.
After unloading the Migrator from the tender, Daisy and I rested a bit. It was not cold and the wind had not picked up (yet). The decoys were kind of tossed out in roughly the position they would work best and we both settled into the bottom of the big rig for a snooze. An hour before shooting time, I moved the big boat about 300 yards up the shore and then walked back down the sandy beach to finalize the decoy setup. There were seven greenwing teal, three bluewing, three Dakota hen mallards and five flocked coots.
Opening day there are many naïve, young birds and spinners are the general rule. I had one teal and two remote mallards off in the distance. No ducks dropped in before shooting time which is very unusual. Even more so for any day on the river, the first shot fired was five minutes AFTER shooting time. Then it was like a war for about an hour (and mostly to the south).
Daisy and I were well hidden and soon our action began. The ducks that came in were “hot” and were probably more aware that something was different this morning. The bluewings were using their speed as protection. With my bad left shoulder and shooting from a layout position, I was a bit concerned beforehand. The ducks were not exactly decoying giving no time to think. It was "up and shoot" or just watch. Just reacting is an advantage for my style of shooting. Generally, teal are easier than mallards.
Not having anytime to think much about it, I have never shot any better (ever). There were five well spaced opportunities. Four bluewing teal and a drake mallard were dropped with three on single shots and the other two on the second follow up shot.
Daisy made quick work and was flawless with her retrieving (she had been prepped on the use of the hide on my Migrator). The immature drake mallard was the only cripple and Daisy handled the diving escape attempts like it was nothing.
Then I made the fatal mistake. My mind said, "Geez, I only need one more (for a limit)!” Things slowed down dramatically and I totally fanned on two separate mallards that buzzed the decoys. What a great morning for an old, solo hunter and his dog.
Sunday, I decided early on to go back to the same place with Gunny, it was an easy place to hunt and Gunny hasn't had any training on the use of the Migrator. However, he is very familiar with a dog hide.
Early on there was a complication. While preparing for the departure it quickly became apparent neither of my spotlights were working. This is a big deal on the Mississippi. I needed to make it down to a specific cut between two small islands, cross the main channel while avoiding a collision with a channel marker and find a specific island out of many on the Iowa side....in the dark.
The stars were out and I could see the outlines of mostly familiar islands. I was almost positive my flashlight would enable me to avoid running into any channel marker buoy. I went slowly....probing the darkness. After missing the Cable Crossing islands (normal path to the main channel), I recognized another island that would get me there if I went slowly on the north side.
Heading straight west toward the Iowa bank (a dark outline), I kept a close look for any buoys and turned south on the Iowa side. Looking east (to to my left) I was sure the island with our point was the next target. I turned east and it was a good guess. We came in “dead on” yesterday's logs.
There was an instant sense of relief. Then I became kind of smug with my good fortune and rationalized that skill had something to do with it. The day before (when the sun was out), the layout of the trip back was noted. In reality, after several years of scouting pool 13 on the Mississippi (and recovering from mistakes), this area is not as baffling as it once was.
One rule of thumb in the dark is don't ever turn around without noticing where you are in that moment. It only takes a split second to loose orientation. Another point to make is don't spend a large amount of time using a spotlight. Look at what you are doing in the dark as it really is......it looks very different and the spotlight tends to become a crutch.
After this “interesting” event, I will not press my luck again. I could very easily have spent some time sitting beside some island waiting for the sun to come up. On a final note, there now will always be a backup third spotlight at duck camp.
Gunny and I had a great morning. He did everything I asked him to. We had a lot fun in spite of the fact that not a single duck was shot at. At 9 am, I called it a morning and unloaded my gun in the bright sunlight. In the moment right as I clicked the empty receiver shut......two teal buzzed the decoys. I muttered a brief expletive and then laughed out loud. Geez! I love duck hunting. Even when things don't just play out the way you'd expect.....it's almost always fun!
These kinds of hunts keep me feeling young.
Migrator tucked into the logs
Daisy in the boat hide
Gunny after Sunday's pickup