Bird Dog & Retriever News

Dec 2016 / Jan 2017 issue page 4

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Tales Of A NoDak Virgin

By C.L. Marshall

Buy The Book: Thanks to C. L. Marshall we have and excerpt from his book Chesapeake Bay Hunting Tales, Copyrights 2016 History Press

According to the magazines and Internet, the North Dakota prairie pothole region appeared to be a duck hunter's paradise. Funnel clouds of descending mallards filled my imagination as I booked the airline tickets. It would be my first trip out west. The tales of waterfowl numbers brought back by my fellow duck hunters in previous years only fueled my excitement. I had to see it for myself.
My gunning partner Anfernee Thomas and I headed to Short Pump to meet Glen "the Assassin" Wadkins and his crew. We loaded his GMC with layout blinds, decoys, kayaks, coolers of food and drink and all the other paraphernalia necessary for an eight-day odyssey in the heartland. The image of him pulling out of the driveway drew a likening to the old Beverly Hillbillies truck rolling into Beverly Hills. Sipping on Maker's Mark, we retreated to our hotel in preparation for our might out the next day.
Landing in Sioux Falls, it was obvious that we had left the population centers of the East Coast. Grabbing our gear and our rental truck for the week, we embarked on the four-hour trip north to Ashley. At a stop by the first liquor store we saw, we acquired a bottle of Evan Williams Single Barrel that would make the trip palpable, and at another stop, by the Cabela's in Mitchell, South Dakota, we gathered some last-minute supplies to make the trip across the barren agricultural land more interesting. Traveling during the daylight hours was pleasant with limited traffic. Once we crossed the slope coming into North Dakota, the landscape became pockmarked by potholes and sloughs, all teeming with waterfowl.
Arriving in midafternoon, we quickly stowed our gear and went out to scout for the morning's hunt. Hunting such large land successfully requires work. Scouting, property maps, knocking on farmer's doors, hours of driving and glassing were all required to make the most of limited days. With not much time to work with, we elected to hunt the first morning on our host's five thousand acres. We found a slough surrounded by fresh-cut corn that was holding a few hundred mallards. The next morning we lay in wait for them.
Words cannot express our excitement as we settled into the layout blinds. The wind was at our back, blowing at a steady twenty miles per hour with gusts of up to thirty. The first arrivals were the greenwings. They came in bunches with the first available light. We passed on the first couple of flocks, but with the growing light, we thought better of it and got down to business. Our first shot came from a flock of thirty. We spied them skipping along the tops of the cattails as their speed slowed significantly to make their final approach into the wind. From that point on, it was a steady flow of fowl of all flavors. In short order, we had a pile of teals, a few mallards, widgeons, redheads and a couple pintails floating against the far bank. Though slow by NoDak terms, we'd accumulated a four-man limit by 9:00 a.m.
We elected to split up and had different directions for our midday scouting. We met in Klum at the appointed hour to discuss our afternoon options. We elected to hunt closer to home that afternoon, saving the mother lode we'd discovered for the next morning The afternoon hunt yielded some nice shooting on gadwalls and widgeons. The next morning, we had the hunt that dreams are made of. Lying in the corn stubble while thousands of mallards swirled overhead like a tornado, I was satisfied that the time and money spent were worth it, and I hadn't even pulled the trigger.
Some think that hunting out there is easy. From all the magazines, it appears as though you can hunt anywhere, easily take your limit and do it on consecutive days. That is far from the truth. Though the results call be outstanding, it requires hard work. Access to private land is becoming more difficult. More and more of the land is being posted. Being able to take "no" for an answer, long hours scouting and a good sense of direction are keys to NoDak success.
On our last day there, we found a soybean field that held no birds. But it was near a large lake that held thousands of mallards. Along a hedgerow was a depression that held about a fifty-by one-hundred-yard piece of sheet water. Without a doubt, those mallards would find their way there in the minutes that preceded sunset. Setting up with a huge spread of full-body mallards, Canada geese and pintails, we sat for two and a half hours without seeing a bird in the air. Fifteen minutes before sunset, a flock of a dozen sneaked up on us from behind, hooked into the wind and suspended over our decoys. Eighteen shots rang out in rapid succession. There were four survivors.
The next twelve minutes will forever be etched in my mind's eye. The birds fell like rain. There was no stopping these greenheads from coming to that little patch of sheeted water. The action was fast and furious, and we continued our barrage as the sun dipped past the horizon. When the shooting was done, the birds continued to funnel into the decoys. Knowing these were our last minutes of our "hunting dream," we lay silent with guns unloaded drinking beer and watching the events unfold over our decoys. It was an amazing sight, one that will be remembered long after the number of birds bagged fades.
I can't wait to do it again.


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Copyrights Bird Dog & Retriever News December 2016
Do not reproduce or retransmit in any form, and we surf the web, we'll find you.
Maintained by Dennis Guldan e-mail
Bird Dog & Retriever News, PO Box 120089, New Brighton, MN 55112,
Phone 612-868-9169 Adv deadline 1st of the month prior to the issue.