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Twenty-four hours in a canoe

Twenty-four hours  in a canoe Twenty-four hours  in a canoe

An Outdoorsman’s Journal

Hello friends, This week I have lots to write about and it’s all good as I officially hit the trail that has me scheduled until the last day of Wisconsin’s deer gun season.

First, the experience of not having wheels for three weeks has officially passed as the Chevy Hotel went to heaven and two very good friends, actually three, took care of me. Graham and Nate Counihan are longtime friends and this father/son team who own and run Graham’s Auto and Truck Clinic located in Poynette, Cottage Grove and Middleton heard my pathetic story, reached out to me and gave me a whopper of a deal on a 2017 GMC Sierra with 34,000 miles. I worked with Graham in the late ‘70s when he came over from Ireland and the Counihans are good people.

Thursday, Sept. 7 High 75, Low 52

Here is the plan. I’ll drive to Lake Wisconsin, which is between Poynette and Lodi and part of the Wisconsin River, load my canoe with duck hunting and camping gear, two happy golden retrievers and myself, paddle it to a backwaters area that is heavily loaded with wild rice, hunt teal and geese for two days, sleep in my canoe at night and that would be the inaugural/muddy trip of my new truck.

I might add this truck still even smells new, and Ruby and Red are doing their best to change that. So, in case you do not know, I grew up in Poynette and used to ice fish and skate where I would be hunting. Silt followed by wild rice has filled in the 5–6 feet of water and the ducks love it. In the past I have slept here as many as 10 days as I trapped muskrats and raccoons and hunted ducks. I have also hunted deer with a muzzle loader and camped here and took a beautiful buck one year. The day that trip ended the water became ice.

I have ignored this spot for three years because my good friend from Burnett, Rod Bensley, was terminally ill and I field hunted for geese with him instead. I miss you Rod, I really do.

So anyway, this is day seven of the nine-day teal season and I am a bit late to the party as the local flock is either dead or educated. But since I just got wheels yesterday, my options were minimal. A big learning experience would be that there is a lot more and denser wild rice than there was a few years back and that, combined with a long term drought, made for difficult travel in muck.

Nonetheless, I was very excited to train my pup Red and literally live out of my canoe as I had zero intention of getting out of it until I hit the landing the following day. First setback, the pole for my Robo Duck was broken. I had purchased two new batteries on the way down, but the Robo Duck was not an option. There will be other hunts.

Next, I put out my decoys in an area that I have hunted in the past and, in the very least, I would have plenty of wood ducks to watch. Next, I hid my canoe in the wild rice and realized seeing ducks until they were right in range would be a challenge as the rice is tall and thick. Next, I realized I had forgot to bring a lighter. I was going to cook my meals on a single burner camp stove. That idea flamed out and my diet would be cheese, a 2-pound stick of garlic flavored bear sausage and apples.

On occasion I would get burned by teal flying at Mach 8 and I had no cares as the pups and I were very happy for a multitude of reasons. Late in the afternoon I came to the conclusion that, due to the fact that I had 2 inches of muck in the bottom of the canoe, I would not be able to use my sleeping bag as I would destroy it. I decided that when day became night, I would keep wearing my chest waders, roll up in a tarp and live like royalty.

I have to admit, I had a flock of six teal fly by and I missed two true bunny shots. I also have to admit, I did not care. With three minutes of legal hunting left, I had a pair of teal land in easy range, I could not shoot them on the set and let them swim into the wild rice.

When legal shooting ended, I cased my gun, opened a beer and watched about a billion wood ducks and mallards come to what is their rice paradise for the night. While watching my version of TV, a raccoon swam by and Ruby wanted to chase it.

I laid on the deck of my canoe wearing chest waders and a rain jacket with my tarp on top of 2 inches of muck and realized that at the ripe old age of 62, this is living.

The next day, I stayed put until 2 p.m., did not get a shot, pulled my decoys and paddled back to my new truck.

There will be plenty of shooting on upcoming trips. Sunset