An Outdoorsman’s Journal
By: Mark Walters
The Hunt Begins
Hello everyone: This week I am writing to you about an adventure that I took with my golden retriever Ruby. It was kind of a waterfowl hunt/somewhat fishing while sleeping in my boat trip. Most of this trip took place on Whalen’s Grade, which is a backwater of the Wisconsin River in Columbia County.
Monday, Aug. 31 High 78, low 53 You can look at it as good or bad when you get to a boat landing and realize your transom saver has been dragging for the last 70 miles and now is much shorter than it used to be. That is how this hunt began and would end. Nothing could alter my positive mood as I was about to build a quick duck blind for my canoe, sleep in my boat, hunt teal and geese at sunrise, fish walleye during the middle of the day, hunt again, repeat the process the next day, and then go home for the start of bear hunting season.
My plan was to trail my canoe behind my 18.6 War Eagle, find a place to base the boat, paddle the canoe to a pretty good hunting spot, and prepare for the hunt.
I did just that on a body of water that I ice-fished religiously from about 1970-75. My dad, the late Robert Walters, had my brothers Tom and Mike and me out here at least a dozen times each winter before it was light out. We tip-up fished for northern pike, had an ice skating rink shoveled off the entire winter, and enjoyed those very simple experiences.
Whalen’s Grade is being slowly but steadily filled in by Rowan Creek and simply is not deep enough for steady fishing. The bonus is that there is wild rice, waterfowl, good trapping, and whitetail deer to hunt.
I took a picture while I was cooking supper in my boat of a full moon and it was not even dark out. At dark I tried to sleep on the floor of my boat with a get-up-at-2:30 a.m. plan. I was restless and heard the first approaching mud motor at 2:15 and thus began paddling my canoe to my blind to claim my turf.
Today would be my 49th opening of waterfowl season. Mud motors have changed waterfowl hunting a lot. Everyone is in a race to get to “their” spot and many have a throttle instead of a paddle. The race starts five hours before daylight, then there is the noise, and every bird in the marsh has been flushed before a shot has been fired.
So I sat in my canoe for exactly four hours before shooting began and when it did there was a very dense fog and the only birds that you could see, you had to hear first, and pick the tiny opening in the fog when they flew through it.
Thank God geese have to talk when they fly. I had a flock approach and when I saw them in an opening in the air fired three shots, and lo and behold, I got one. Ruby was rather rusty on her retrieve but got the job done.
A bit later a teal flew by and I dumped it with my first shot. Next I missed bunny shots on both teal and geese and my morning hunt ended with me dusting a goose that crashed out of sight in the wild rice and Ruby made an excellent retrieve and was now totally into the game.
Next, I paddled back to my boat, cooked up some bacon and eggs, and headed the War Eagle out to the main river to fish walleye. Three hours before dark and no walleye for my efforts, I headed back to my canoe for an evening of hunting and sleeping in the boat.
Some bad luck came my way when I reached the canoe and went to trim my motor up and I had no power trim. Next, I tried starting my 90 hsp Etec and had no juice but still had other electronics.
A major executive decision was made. I was going to attempt to paddle my canoe from the weeds in Whalen’s Grade and tow the Sherman Tank that I call my boat.
Complete focus and an “I can do this attitude” got me out of the muck onto Lake Wisconsin and eventually to the boat landing.
When I reached my truck, I felt like a hero until I backed my truck to the water and my door latch broke.
In the end, Ruby and I made it home and to my dying day I will say this: I hate anything with electronics or a gas engine. Sunset P.S. — To start this adventure I realized that a mouse had eaten a hole in my waders when I jumped in the water to build my blind.
This full moon lit up the sky!
It can be a tough job for a dog to swim through vegetation with a ten pound goose in its mouth.
Walters towing the War Eagle back to the landing.