Two days of nasty weather produced a mixed bag of birds. We found that the recent snow line stretched from Sioux City to Watertown, SD. Also North Dakota was all frozen. That means the potholes and the big water were ice covered. When we have three consecutive days of severe cold weather, the birds do not hang around. The birds just plain left all that food behind and headed south. North of Watertown they stopped and commenced the feeding process. This is what waterfowl do. They feed, drink water, get a little sand, and hang out. What a life.
With the push of the weather, the boys headed to the pits to have big days of birds decoying into the swamp. One out of the two they had great shooting, but the second produced nothing. The third day called for northwest winds of 8-10 mph decreasing in the afternoon. Unfortunately I missed the first two days due to previous commitments. Usually during duck season, I am not to be bothered. The third day was my best day. I was up at 4 AM and on the road by 5 AM. I arrived at the Big Chicken in Tekamah for the rendezvous with the hunters.
Faces appeared a little long. Everyone was worried about the lack of strong north winds and clearing skies. So what, there was still northerly flow and with the overcast gone, we could see the birds coming at long distances. Your glass has to be half full or half empty on a day like today. This is true especially for the dark geese. In the clear blue skies, they really stand out. Also the high flying snows stand out as well. With the reflection of the sun off their bodies, we saw high fliers by the thousands. If it got slow, we just sat down and looked skyward at the enormous flocks of snows heading south.
Gone are the days when we would decoy snow geese by the hundreds into the swamp. Now they are in such big flocks due to increasing numbers that you need a huge spread of decoys in an open field just to get a look. This spring, I am gong to contact a couple of the commercial operators and go south along the Missouri River and pound on some snow geese. There are so many that there is a spring season for them now and there is no limit in Nebraska. One of these days Mother Nature will thin them out, and she is not kind.
Getting back to the day’s hunt, all ten of us were well in the blinds before shooting time. The wind was almost non existent and was light and variable from the south west. What happened to our Northwest wind? Shooting time came and went and we all just stood and stared at each other like cows staring at an illegitimate calf. No one knew what to do.
An hour later here they came. Up from the south they circled once, locked up and fell into the swamp. A small flock, but beggars cannot be choosers. All hell broke loose and we dropped them all. Out went the dogs and it was now a great morning. Small groups of two to four would circle the blind, lock up and start to come in, then climb back into the atmosphere either to circle some more or fly away. Everyone believed that these were local birds and when they got close to the blinds their bottoms start to burn. They had been here before. Even though they have a brain the size of a dime, they learn.
We still continued to get small flocks that would decoy and drop right in. These were fresh birds and had not learned a thing from the locals. I doubt if they communicate to each other saying, “Be careful over that strip of ground or your bottom will burn.” As the sun rose our action was still good and brisk, but they tended to stay up high and we were forced to take longer shots and a lot less success.
This was really interesting; the wind moved straight south and went dead calm then slowly moved to the northwest, but our action was outstanding. By 9 AM the duck action just plain dried up, and we saw nothing. That was okay because 10 AM is usually the start of the Canada shooting.
It did not take long and here they came. 50% of the birds gave us a look by circling a couple of times and then flying off. Half of the 50% would lock up and glide toward the decoys and the open water. I must buy a video camera to take pictures of this scene. It is absolutely beautiful to hear them honking as they glide to the open water. Something usually is not right if we lose them before a shot is fired.
Now the last 25% do the same thing except they drop into gun range and are promptly dispatched. With the clear blue skies, they stay a little high and our shots are long. In order to dispatch a big bird we all shoot 3.5 inch shells of either Black Cloud, Heavy Shot Heavy Metal Mixture or just Heavy Metal. We have the best luck with these loads, some believe. That is the personal opinion of a few, me included. Other people shoot different loads, but still the 3.5 inch shell. That is where the discussion begins.
At noon, we ended the morning with 26 Mallards and 19 nice big Canada Geese. It was a great morning and a great shoot.