Big river duck hunt
An Outdoorsman’s Journal
Mark Walters sponsored by
Hello friends, This week’s column is about going for it no matter what is thrown at you and sticking to the goal.
I headed over to the Mississippi River near De Soto with my golden retrievers Fire and Ruby for two very solid days of exploring by canoe and duck hunting.
Tuesday, Nov. 17 High 51, Low 26
I left my home near Necedah at 3:30 a.m and was extremely excited. My plan was to launch at a boat landing near De Soto and paddle in the dark to a section of backwaters that I did very well in two years ago. This fall, duck hunters on the Mississippi River are witnessing extremely low water conditions and that would be a major negative and plus for the pups and me.
On the first hunt, I’m breaking skim ice with a paddle in the dark also hitting the bottom with my paddle with most strokes. Decoys are placed, canoe is hidden, life is perfect. Two divers gave me a flyover before shooting started and that was it. For the next two hours, I did not see another bird.
I decided to make a long distance paddle south toward Ferryville and find “paradise.”
I stopped at the landing to get something out of my truck and was fortunate enough to speak with a hunter that told me to load up my canoe and drive to Ferryville as thousands of divers had arrived over night.
I loaded up and made the drive and it was incredibly exciting to see thousands of ducks on the open big water near Ferryville.
I made a key decision that I was going to paddle north for about three miles until I hit a land mass that is a maze of channels and cattail marshes. I picked out my point and was literally 400 yards from it when a guide boat beat me to it. I had a good talk with the guide as he was placing decoys and continued north.
On the second hunt, I did not get a shot. The big water ducks were not coming close enough. The third hunt was the same as second. It’s now about 3 p.m. Fourth hunt, I spoke with the guy that gave me advice to drive to Ferryville, he had not fired a shot. I paddled further north. I am now over four miles from Ferryville and have not shot my gun.
At this time a very concerning northwest wind started blowing hard. Like a true duck hunter, I stuck it out until sunset and started paddling back toward Ferryville in big water with a tailwind that wanted to kick my butt. There is not room to describe it, but every wave that hit me in the dark wanted to toss me like a blanket in a dryer and when I made it to the landing I kissed the ground and changed my underwear.
Wednesday, Nov. 18 High 46, Low 27
Awake at 1:30 after a sleepless night in my enclosed trailer, I paddled north, hoping to beat the guide boats. At daybreak on my fifth hunt, I’m not even close to a shot. Another move is made toward Lansing. No shots, but I see some ducks working an area in shallow water with lots of cattails.
Seventh hunt, I put out two teal decoys and three mallards. Within one minute a flock of teal hit me from behind, which was a blind direction. I sail one at least 100 yards in the cattails. Ruby makes an epic retrieve.
I explore the cattails with the pups and can see that the beavers have made a dyke system out of mud and the water is flowing directly to my canoe. Soon I have four teal and life is incredible. Fire, who is now 10, makes a retrieve.
My sixth bird, which gave me my limit was another incredible, stick-with-it retrieve by Ruby.
I place my birds on the front seat of my canoe and begin the journey back to the landing. The pups and I arrived exactly when the guide boats did.
I had a good talk with the hunters who had paid $750 for a day on the water in a Sherman Tank. They were drooling at my limit and loved the pups. For the three hunters’ efforts they had one duck.
The drive home was one of those where you gotta have the windows open and keep slapping your face to stay awake.
Today was a good day!