The recent unseasonable warm temperatures presented me with another chance to get out waterfowling. Having the opportunity to get out due to the weather was a small kindness considering the effect the temperatures has had on the recent deer season. But, it pays to be positive and that is how I was seeing this warm weather this week. Another chance to get out and take a crack at some waterfowl.
Typically, I focus my attention on four-legged creatures of the Cervid variety this time of year but after my buddy Dave had noticed a pile of birds near a spot we had been wanting to try, I was easily convinced to give up an early morning before work. As an added bonus, temperatures had begun to dip slightly below zero in the evenings and early mornings which seems to have a positive effect on waterfowling. So as we have done many time before, we made the short drive and 2 km paddle to the spot in question and began setting up our spread of decoys. We had hoped to hunt this spot earlier in the year but had to change our plans due to another group of hunters who had got up just a bit earlier than us. That’s just the nature of hunting on public land I guess. Luckily this time around the place was deserted and we had our pick of the spots.
We chose a great spot on the eastern shore of the bay to take advantage of the east wind, anticipating the ducks would land into the wind and giving them the bulk of the bay for their approach. For the first while though it seemed the only thing we could see were buffleheads or other divers.
The action in our bay heated up a bit as numerous ducks started dropping in and around the far shore of the bay. Among them was a pretty sizeable drake mallard who at first, didn’t seem interested in our setup despite our best efforts. Eventually its curiosity got the better of him and he decided to do the zig-zag swim over to check us out. I expect this was due to Dave’s persistent duck calling which manly consisted of dabbles with the odd call back sequence. He made it to within the outer reach of the decoys and seemed to stall there warily inspecting our decoys. I wasn’t going to give him an opportunity to figure out our ruse and after a couple shots and a few minutes later Dave had retrieved my very first bird of the day. How did it cook it? click to find out (Wild duck au poivre).
As is often the case when you get outdoors in southern Ontario we saw a plethora of wildlife that wasn’t on the menu. Everything from Pileated Woodpeckers, a flock of tundra swans, snow geese, flocks of Canadian geese (one which landed just near our spread but a bit out of range) and of course a good variety of diving ducks which seem to make their way to our area later in the season. All great to see and experience.
Unfortunately we missed an opportunity at another group of mallards and some redheads but with a few tweaks I’m confident we could increase our effectiveness drastically. Even with the missed shots and small number of birds taken, I like to think success is not only measured in the game you bring home but the lessons you take with you as well.
And in this case, the lessons were many.
Like paying attention to these seasonal changes and to what other hunters are encountering can be very beneficial to the perceptive hunter. In this case the hunting pressure on water fowl in my local decreases sharply in mid November and coupled with a later migration due to temperatures ended up offering a great hunting opportunity.
Or how about learning to place your goose decoys a bit further from the main mallard spread (but still within range) in order to increase your chances of bringing geese into an effective range. It seems geese don’t like to drop into a spread of mallards and will offset themselves.
Or don’t drop your guard just because you have bagged a bird. Those tricky buggers can come out of nowhere and they don’t always see you despite how obvious you think you may be.
Despite the lessons learned from this outing and the bird harvested, the best part of the whole trip didn’t occur in the blind. Instead it was getting to see the excitement of my 2.5 year old daughter when I brought home the mallard. I didn’t even have a chance to get one word out and she came running over to see what I had brought home. She immediately insisted on touching it all the while voicing her observations and making hilarious statements like “I don’t want to touch the beak. Its weird” or “I want to go hunt ducks”. You could see the interest and fascination in her eyes, vibrant and intense. Start them young I always hear, and they will be interested for life.
Maybe that’s the real lesson here..
Cheers from the blind,