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 theory).
 

              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
              was excellent.

              Quitting at noon, it wasn't long before I was working out the details for tomorrow's Iowa opener.
              Scouting was finished and a mental picture of the decoy setup was in place. The boat was loaded
              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
              makes 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
              kept me from hitting my head on the gunnel, my left rib cage caught the full blow on the edge of
              the front 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 places.
 
              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 baton.

              The decoys and gear were unloaded onto a sand bar first. After the boat was "cleared", the blind was
              setup 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 blowing
              strongly and the temperature was in the low 30's, it was a very comfortable rest. Can you spell
              "spoiled'?
   

              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 long nap.
 

              I really do enjoy hunting alone with a good dog. I suppose in a way, being 72 and able to carry
              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 it happens 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
              of coots. 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
              control. 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 provided when
              nearing camp on the boat ride back.....we happened to intersect the flight path of about thirty huge
              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 expectations
              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
              way which makes for birds passing by too quickly. After bagging three teal, things got really slow. By
              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 of a 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
              and rescheduled, 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 breeze. If
              Kooly picked up five birds we would have a two day possession limit. Unless I ate ducks tonight, there
              could be no hunting tomorrow. It was sloooww! At about 12:30 a mallard did a too close fly-by and I
              dropped it with a shot that made me smile. Then it got way slooowwer! BUT is was a great day to be
              on the river.
 

              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 to
              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 north with Kooly and me walking on the
              beach sent the duck scrambling for altitude and speed. As it rocketed out over the main channel....it
              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 thumbnails)
                                                             
 Photos of the first day with Daisy

             
               "blind bucket"
       
           
"the point"
      
 
   "boat up the shore"
      
            "close up"

      
   
    "Avery FB mallards"     
             
                    "coots"
         
        "Daisy finished"
      
    "beauty'n the beast"
             
     

     "Daisy's hero shot"
  
      

        "cleaning time"



             

                    "Kooly"   
          
     
   
         
      "Kooly's hero shot"
 
      Kooly's Hunt 

      
      "2nd day feeders"
  
  
      
    "Avery FFD Lessers"
    
     
      
      "Kooly being cool"

   

 
 
                        updated 01/28/14