An early afternoon arrival at duck camp,
September 20th, was accompanied with great anticipation of
another good year of waterfowl hunting on the Mississippi River. Three of
the last four years Kooly,
Taffey, Daisy and Gunny have been able to work both sides of the river. With
an Illinois and Iowa duck
hunting license, spots to hunt and potential "targets" double (in
This year the new mud rig (purchased last year) has a Beavertail blind to
work with. So far it has
proven to be just what we needed. Friday morning (the 21st), Taffey and
I hunted Illinois teal close to
camp inorder to give the rig a "shake-down" test
run. It rained all morning and teal weren't flying
much, but I managed to
drop one which meant Taffey could test
the "dog door and ramp" setup. It
Quitting at noon,
it wasn't long before I was working out the details for tomorrow's Iowa
Scouting was finished and a mental picture of the decoy
setup was in place. The boat was
before darkness set in
and the plan was to leave at 1 am. Being first is everything.
Unfortunately, when I was unloading the boat, there was an accident. The
shoreline in front of my boat
it easy to step onto the bow and
extended front deck. Well, today everything was wet and as I
stepped off the bow with a bag of goose decoys (not to be
used tomorrow), I suddenly lost my balance.
Thinking that just stepping back onto the bow would be easier, my foot
slipped on the wet floor and
went completely out from under me. I plummeted head first back into the boat. Raising my left arm up
from hitting my head on the gunnel, my left rib cage caught the full blow on the edge of
deck. The pain was immediate. Each breath, said
"broken rib". Geez, this is not good!
update: The next two days were
spent carefully avoiding any coughing or sneezing. I would brace
myself every time I moved or lifted
something. It did not seem to have any negative
impact on shooting. I was kind of ignorant about the
ramifications of this type of injury.
Tuesday I went
in for x-rays. They were negative, but I'm black and blue in several
Daisy was the "dog of the day"
and we arrived first to the spot. She is a joy to hunt with. This the first
opener Taffey has not been taken first. She is 12 and slowing down some and
this is a very physically
challenging spot for retrieving (deep mud on one side). It was time to pass
The decoys and gear were unloaded onto a sand bar first. After the boat
was "cleared", the blind was
and both ends closed down tight. With the
air mattress inflated and a Mr.
Buddy propane heater
running, I slipped off my heavy jacket for a few hours
of sleep. Even though the wind was
the temperature was in the low 30's, it was a very comfortable rest. Can you spell
I figured at 5 pm there would
be enough time to set-up the blind (hidden in tall grass), a dog hide,
three MOJO's, six Avery FFD goose
feeders, three Dakota goose floaters, a bag of flocked coot decoys,
a set of Avery FB mallards and move
the boat out of sight north up the main channel shoreline.
Much to my
chagrin, I was wrong.
I lost the first ten minutes of the morning.......and ducks were flying
all around us.
At nine o/clock (four teal and two
mallards later), Daisy and I were finished. This hunt
was a great success in every way. The plan worked
almost to perfection. Daisy was her usual busy,
precise, fun self. The boat did just
what was expected (and more). After picking up
the gear, we
headed back to camp. With
the wind howling out of the northeast it was a wet ride north across the
main channel toward the cut
into the backwaters. The other three dogs were
glad we were back and
aired immediately. Then I took a
I really do enjoy
hunting alone with a good dog. I suppose in a way, being 72 and able to
this off is a blessing. It is
not unlike being a peaceful, capable old hermit....for a short time.
Tomorrow's dog was a question
mark. Kooly has always received the "short end of the stick" when
taking his turns. Mostly
because each trip to camp ends up being three hunts or less. So
this trip Kooly will go (Gunny will sit it
out). In a way, Kooly is his own worst enemy. That is to say, he
can be a
"pain in the donkey". He's been known to
suddenly jump out of a moving boat when an
"exciting" stump appears. One time, I was going full
speed and he just flew out of the boat into a raft
Most of the time when on a boat ride any birds
in the air become a huge temptation.
Realizing his penchant for "loosing it", training has been focused on
increasing his responsiveness and
So in a way, this hunt was to be a test. My intent was clearly established
the moment we left
the trailer in
the dark as we headed for the loaded boat. To summarize, he is now a changed dog. He
was "super" all
day. I was thrilled at how he kept it all together. The final clue was
nearing camp on the boat ride back.....we
happened to intersect the flight path of about thirty
pelicans. They were in their loose, undulating "v" and only
about 20 yards off the deck. Kooly was
sitting like a statue in the boat
(almost like a king). He looked up at
the pelicans (that were as close
as I've ever been to them overhead) and
was totally aloof to the temptation. They floated over us for
almost a minute. Wow!
Who is this dog and where did he come from? Finally,........,the
have been "clarified".
Kooly is at last cool.
Sorry for the digression. We didn't leave as early the
next morning and were setup by legal shooting
time (a half hour before
sunrise). Ducks were not as plentiful as
the first day. The ducks on public land
rarely decoy the second day (in this spot) unless they are teal. One of the unavoidable problems when
hunting alone is
that scanning the sky
is tricky and inefficient. You very often are
looking the wrong
makes for birds passing by too quickly. After bagging three teal, things got really
10 PM, I had to decide what the
plans would be for the rest of the day....then my wife called. It seems
she forgot to tell me
very important Doctors appointment Monday morning. Now this trip was
planned way in advance and a Monday
hunt was part of the plan. She said, It could be cancelled
but I wasn't
falling for that trap. What to do?
I decided to hunt all day
Sunday. The decoys were out, it is not very cold and there is a stiff
Kooly picked up five birds we would
have a two day possession limit. Unless I ate ducks tonight, there
be no hunting tomorrow. It was sloooww! At about 12:30 a mallard did a too close fly-by and I
with a shot that made me smile. Then
it got way slooowwer! BUT is was a great day to be
At about 5 o'clock,
I noticed the wave action on the main channel side of the peninsula we were
hunting off had carried one of the Dakota goose floaters down the shoreline. Kooly and I needed
stretch our legs. Of course, I took my gun with me
which is a "rule" taught to me long ago by a very
experienced duck hunter. After re-placing the errant decoy, all of a sudden a
mallard swooped over
the point (apparently giving a quick
glance at the decoys on the other side). This served as another
reminder that rules are important. Seeing my boat to the
with Kooly and me walking on the
beach sent the duck scrambling for altitude and speed. As it
rocketed out over the main
didn't make it. Kooly made the long retrieve. It was
time to pack up and leave.
The most difficult part of our
hunt was still ahead. Unloading the boat, sorting gear, taking the van and
boat trailer to the launch, putting the
boat back on its trailer, preparing my mobile home/trailer for the
dormant three weeks
ahead (no hunting season open) and making the two hour drive back to "base
camp" (our real home) starting just after midnight.........we
dragged into the driveway at 2 am.
It helps to be obsessively possessed by the spirit of duck hunting on the
Mississippi. The hermit and
his dogs were home.
(left click on
Photos of the first day with
"boat up the
"Avery FB mallards"
"beauty'n the beast"
"Daisy's hero shot"
"Kooly's hero shot"
"2nd day feeders"
"Avery FFD Lessers"
"Kooly being cool"