An Outdoorsman’s Journal
By: Mark Walters
Woodies on the Manitowish
Hello friends: This fall Wisconsin had a northern duck hunting opener which started on Sept. 26 and the southern opener which began the following weekend. This week I am writing about a canoe camping and duck hunting trip that I did on the Bear and Manitowish rivers, which feed into the Turtle Flambeau Flowage in Iron County.
Friday, Sept. 25 High 66, low 44
As is always the case, I was fighting the sun clock when I unloaded my truck and loaded my 18-foot, extra heavy, freighter canoe. I use this rig, which about kills me when loading it on my truck, because it can handle a lot of gear.
Another noteworthy topic is that I left my 4-year-old golden retriever “Ruby” home and would just use her mother “Fire,” who is 10 next month. Fire is very kind and not 100 percent into getting wet anymore, but never ignores a command and I knew she would love this warm weather/water hunt.
I have been up this river before on bow hunts and knew right where to set up/camp. I had one other issue, and that was that a solid rain was supposed to start any minute.
First, I built camp and then I went scouting and there was a heck of a lot of wood ducks. As soon as I got back to camp a powerful storm began that would last for several hours.
Saturday, Sept. 26 High 64, low 45 The first hunter, who was in a flat-bottom boat that was pushed by a mud motor, went by my camp at 1 a.m., and I knew I had to get moving if I wanted the spot I chose the night before. After a short canoe trip, I was standing in chest waders in the marsh and would until the season opened five hours later. I might add, there were a lot of hunters and many were hoping to get the spot that Fire and I were occupying. So legal shooting begins, and my goal is to only shoot drake wood ducks for my 3-wood duck limit, no hens. There is a dense fog and so I must wait 20 minutes before I fire my first shot. I was pleasantly surprised when I dropped my quarry and Fire did an excellent retrieve. As far as I was concerned, the trip was a success. Long story short, over the course of the day I dropped the only four ducks I shot at. Fire retrieved every one of them and we had to quit hunting 90 minutes before dark due to a crazy, violent storm that made the half-mile paddle back to camp a why-the-heck-did-I-wait-this-long-topaddle- back-to-camp adventure?
Sunday, Sept. 27 High 69, low 50 I had a heck of a night last night as the storm was violent and my tent leaked really bad. I was laying on a foam pad and had to put all of my extra clothes around the pad as the floor of my tent became a lake. Also, my chest waders leaked, but I had a 45-gallon trash bag in each leg, which really helped.
Once again, I was up by 1 a.m. and loving life, and once again the birds were flying. I dropped the first three that I shot at and Fire retrieved every one. After that I did some missing and finished the morning with a drake wood duck, which just about crashed into us, so Fire did not have to do a retrieve.
This trip bought new life into Fire. For years she was letting Ruby do all the fetching and it was very cool to watch her thoroughly enjoy being a solid hunting dog again.
When we made it back to the landing in Iron County, a police officer met me at my canoe and had some bad news. I was told that several vehicles had windows smashed and items stolen. I have been living on the financial edge as well as time edge for a while and thought, “This sucks!”
Upon inspecting my truck, nothing was broke or missing and I was very happy that this redneck was spared!
The wood stove felt extra special when I made it home. Sunset
This is where our adventure began!
It is not as easy for a ten year old dog to get in a canoe as it was a few years back.
Fire thoroughly enjoyed fetching these woodies!