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The Mallards and Canadas Arrive

The Mallards and Canadas Arrive

 

Eastern Nebraska produced in mid November some really nice weather.  It is nice if you want to golf or work in the yard.  None of those things are important.  It is the smell of freshly fired gunpowder early in the morning that fires the blood up.  A frontal movement finally came out of the north with driving winds, rain, and snow mixed.  It came down from the Dakotas.  That was all that was needed to bring in the big birds.  We have all had enough of Gadwall, Widgeon, Pintails, and Teal.  It is the big ducks with their fine looking green heads we are after now, along with the big Canada geese.

 

When I was a boy and hunted with my Dad, it was unusual to see a Canada goose, let alone shoot one.  Your limit then was one Canada goose per season.  We always hoped we would have the opportunity to bag one, but it never happened.  Later in life, I hunted in N.W. Missouri southwest of Squaw Creek Refuge for Snows and Blues, and we would periodically have a Canada goose opportunity.  It was very rare that this would happen.  Now, the Canada goose hunting is on the same par in our area with the big ducks.  What is more interesting is we never are able to decoy any snows or blues.  We see them in huge flocks way up in the air migrating south.

Looking Northeast just before shooting got hot.

 

 

Up at 4:14 AM the weather was cold and the wind was beginning to pick up.  The front had not gotten here yet, but would be soon arriving.  Gathering at the Big Chicken in Tekamah, Nebraska by 6 AM for cholesterol and coffee, sixteen hunters were ready to hit the blinds and wait for the onslaught that was sure to take place.  It was cold, the perfect weather to hunt ducks and geese in Eastern Nebraska along the Missouri River.

 

This is the gun I shoot. Click on the link or the pic to buy.

Inside the blinds the weather still had not nailed us, but the clouds that were forming and blocking out the moonlight told us that we were going to be hit is a blast of weather.  This was what we wanted as the birds would either come before the blast or with it when it hit.  Our shooting sticks were loaded up with the big shells and everyone waited patiently for shooting time to start.  In the meantime, birds came and went from the swamp.  Some came and stayed while others landed and took off.  They were the smart ones as they may have been at the blinds before.  You can always tell which are the local birds.  They just circle the blinds staying out of range, and then leave.  It must make their butts ache to fly over the swamp.


I shoot this shell  Click on the link or the pic to buy.

As shooting time arrived, the birds that had never been at the swamp before or had never had their tail feathers disturbed, were promptly jumped and dispatched.  There is nothing like having a couple of good shots to open the morning at shooting time.  The weather slowly began to deteriorate and the wind started picking up.  With the pick up in the wind came the Mallards.  They were not in big flocks but small groups and there was very little circling.  They would hook once into the wind and then drop like an elevator, feet out and heading to the open water.  The good news was we had some shots.  The bad news was the wind became westerly and the decoys needed to be moved closer to the bank so that the birds would be heading for the calm water.  Our blinds lay on a peninsula that extends north and south right down the middle of our 40 acres of water.  Calm water would be in front of us and the water behind us was starting to form some heavy wave action.

 

Duke bringing in the bacon

 

We used three wing duck decoys plus three duck butts that have their heads down.  With two spreads of duck decoys close to the calmer water, this made all the difference in the world.  The next few small flocks came to us closer and gave better shots.  I should point out, we never lose a crippled bird.  Several of our members own really well trained dogs.  I don't know what I enjoy more.  It is either the decoying of the birds or having the dogs head to the water and retrieve them.  When their owners let them out of their pens behind the blinds, on command they are so excited and just jump into the water to gather up the birds.

The Mallards either turned off or we just ran out of birds in our area.  Several of the other hunting spots in the area were getting some shooting, but it shut off for us.  Then it changed.  I remember looking at my watch and seeing 10:15 AM.  The wind was really pounding away, but we were below ground level so it made no difference.

 

Here came the Canada geese.  The first flock of 20 to 25 just locked up and started that long beautiful glide into the wind toward the decoys and the open water.  About 25 yards out when the birds were in range, the call went out to "take em."  Sixteen hunters rose and got off at least one shot.  With the wind blowing in excess of 30 MPH, we rose up.  Before we could get our guns to our shoulders, they were riding the wind skyward and away from the blinds.  We only had one opportunity for one really good shot.  That was just fine because we all knew this was the start of a lot of birds decoying to our blinds.

It was a good day.

 

 

By 3 PM well before shooting time was to end. we were done for the day.  It can't get much better than today.

 

 

 

 

Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck.  Hank

 

More Stories By Hank Huntington

Hank Huntington, Esq., is a native of southwest Iowa, healthcare professional, entrepreneur, accomplished pilot, hunting and fishing enthusiast, connoisseur, father and husband. He developed this web site for people to share their fun and excitement about the great outdoors. The best part of this hobby is, after a successful hunting or fishing trip, you are able to dine on fresh game or fish, after all, “ How do you eat a golf ball?” asks Hank. Hanks father and grandfather were both avid outdoorsmen so Hank learned his hunting and fishing skills from them and has passed the tradition down to the fourth generation. Plus the love of the outdoors, and a craving for exquisite dinning, would round out the package.

As a small boy, he fished a local oxbow lake formed by the Missouri River. The lake is primarily old river bottom mud, is not real clear, and has a lot of vegetation. The southeast corner holds a huge lily pad bed, and it was there Hank learned to drag through the water and across the tops of the pads, a Johnson Silver Minnow, with a pork rind attached. This was the place for big mouth bass, and there were lots of them, and young Hank loved to catch them.

At age of 12 Hank started going with his Dad hunting, and by age 14 he was an accomplished shooter with a 12-gauge pump. Shortly after that he was given his first shotgun a Winchester Model 12 pump; he still has it today. It looks like almost new, but the gun is never to be hunted again. Duck hunting in the late 50’s had little pressure after the first two weeks of the season, and when the north wind blew and it got really damp and cold, the big Canada Mallards came.

After graduation from high school, Hank attended Midland College in Fremont, Nebraska. There he met a fellow outdoorsman, and their friendship developed in the fields and streams of central Nebraska.

Hank had little time for hunting and fishing while attending professional school at Creighton University. After graduation he married his college sweetheart and they settled down to career, family, and as often as possible, hunting and fishing.

Hank and his family frequently flew their plane north to Canada to the legendary Canadian fly in lodges to fish for Northern and Walleye. Here he taught his son all the things his father had taught him about fishing. Most of the time the two went alone to the north woods, but when camping was not involved, his wife Pam went along. She always enjoys the fact that she has caught a bigger Northern Pike than Hank, and he has been fishing for 60 years. Today along the Missouri River valley, the deer population increased to the point that in many areas they are a nuisance. The duck, goose, and turkey has also population have also soared.

Area lakes have been well stocked. Many even have a walleye stocking program that makes outstanding fishing. Several are within easy driving distance of Hank’s lodge-like lakeside home. All packaged together is great dining. By the way, Hank harvests only what he will share at a table with family or friends.

Hank says, “Whenever I am on a lake, in the woods, or in the blind, I am always reminded of God’s great bounty and His constant presence. And whether in the great outdoors or at home with my wife, I strive to be a good steward of nature and all that God has given us.”

Good hunting! Good fishing! Good day!