Turtle-Flambeau/the longest day
An Outdoorsman’s Journal
Hello friends, For several years I have been enjoying myself immensely while hunting ducks for the northern Wisconsin opener on the backwaters of the Turtle-Flambeau Flowage and living out of my boat and my canoe. This year’s companions would be my golden retrievers Ruby and her pup Red.
Friday, Sept. 22 High 66, Low 53
This trip started out in a very stressful way 48 hours ago when my pup Red, who has never left the property without her mother Ruby (and that has not happened in a long time), kind of vanished. Wednesday night I was working on my pond, which in reality is the logistical moving of a lot of sand. This project that started in May has now sucked up over 300 hours of hard but inspiring work.
My home is surrounded by forest and Red is always exploring, but back within seconds when I call her name. Wednesday afternoon she did not come back, or that evening, and the next morning she still was not home. I was worried and bummed about her missing an excellent opportunity for some duck hunting training.
I put the word out and looked and called her name a lot. Thursday evening I was throwing sand with a shovel when I thought I heard a whimper in the forest. I looked as hard as I could and found my pup, she had dug a hole underneath a 22-foot Gruman canoe that I plan on rebuilding someday, and the hole had collapsed and she was stuck, but I got her out.
So anyways, this was kind of a trip of doom as the forecast was for solid rain the entire adventure. I did not care as I knew I would whack ducks, train dogs and spend time in an area that I first explored when I was 9 years old.
I had just enough daylight to trail my canoe behind my boat to paradise, check out my duck hunting spot and then do the crazy thing of setting up to sleep in my boat. In this case that meant putting up a cot, a sleeping bag on top and a tarp over my body. For some odd reason Ruby was not feeling well and kept eating grass like a steer and with her head close to mine as well as Red’s. She was belching almost constantly. There was steady rain and a flock of 10,589 mosquitos liked it underneath my tarp as well.
Saturday, Sept. 23 High 65, Low 58
I was out of my cot at 3:30 a.m. and off to duck paradise which, in this case, means slogging through the mud to a marsh and watching the world. It was dark, raining and it was neat to watch as other hunters slowly but steadily arrived, but everyone had plenty of space.
My goals on this trip were to train the pup. Last year, when she was 6 months old, she received very little training. My girlfriend Michelle Chiaro had just passed away and I was not a hunting dog trainer after that.
So, night becomes day, some hunters are getting lots of shooting, some not so much. I am foolishly passing on everything but drake wood ducks and greenheads. Long after daylight I changed my mind and dropped a hen wood duck. Ruby was sound asleep and did not see the duck fall. Some instinct in her told her where it was, she swam a good 50 yards from my canoe, grabbed the duck and came back to me.
I put in many hours in the rain, paddled back to my boat at dark with two drakes and a hen wood duck and remade the same setup that I had the night before for sleeping. The rain and mosquitos were steady and that was when I came to the conclusion that this adventure was a never-ending day.
The next morning, I was well adjusted to my world. It rained and then it would stop and, though my pups were not perfect, Ruby and Red found three ducks of which two never would have been found. Red did an outstanding job of finding one which had somehow got well into a root ball of a tree and, without her nose, never would have been found.
When I got back to the landing, I loaded up my “kind of new 2017 GMC” and I was stupid tired until the Packers came back on the Saints and, as usual, everything in life worked out.