After 17 years of hunting ducks and geese north of Tekamah, it was time for me to find another spot or quit hunting ducks altogether. Giving up something that you have done since you were a boy is not an easy bridge to cross. Besides the hunting experience, I grew up during the season dining on freshly shot Mallard ducks. It’s tradition.
Fortunately for me, my wife is from western Nebraska and her father and grandfather also hunted ducks and geese on the Panhandle of the state and the Platte Rivers that flowed just north of the farm where she was raised. This is a blessing for me since dining on freshly killed game was also a tradition in her family. For her, hunting is a family tradition.
Here they come
The owner of the ground where the hunting club was located had been an avid duck hunter since he was a boy. He grew up hunting in one of the premier duck and goose commercial spots near Tekamah. He ran a great club and the swamp that was created by him was just one half mile from the Missouri River. Migration traffic could not have been better.
|Our clubs leader now deceased. He is missed.|
This was gentleman hunting at its finest. Sunken pits with heat and comfortable seating was available. The best part of hunting there was the dogs. Several of the club members had outstanding dogs and we never lost a cripple. The really nice part of watching the dogs work was a hunter never had to get out of the blinds. Forty acres of open water was supplied by a pump that was controlled from inside one of the blinds. By turning on a bubbler during the coldest of weather, we would always have open water. As I write this today, it seems like all the tradition I have enjoyed and known throughout my life is slipping away. Buy my book from Amazon or Lulu and read about “How to Hunt Like a Gentleman.”
My good friend John
The club was managed on a professional basis and only one person would call the shot. Everyone obeyed the owner’s rule which was safety first and we will all have a good experience. I never dreamed that this might all come for an end and I would lose a good friend who sat next to me in the blind many times. Two years ago he died of cancer.
A good day for Mallards.
The club was managed last year by one of the members who lived in Tekamah. Everyone held deep respect for him. The shooting last season was terrible. Pam and I were in Japan on our yearly tour and I was able to text a close friend in the club who kept me informed. Getting back during the middle of November, I had it all planned. However, the weather was so nice the birds never left the Dakotas and when they did it was all over. Last year I went fewer times than I had ever done in the years I was a member of the club.
|Junior bringing in a really nice big goose.|
A new arrangement was made by the family with some of the members, but I and several of the long standing club members just felt that the loss of a good friend and fellow hunter brought everything to an end for several of us.
So having said that, a few of the old guard and myself decided to look around at hunting at one of the commercial sites in Missouri, Nebraska and South Dakota. Turning to the internet, the search was on.
The ducks all come over South Dakota on their way south to Tekamah and so a check was made of spots on the flyway south.
The first state that was looked at was South Dakota which is a fisherman and hunters’ paradise. The state has it all from fishing the Missouri River System to hunting for big and small game. The eastern part of the state is known as the “Prairie Pothole Region.” This area was scarred by the glaciers and has created lakes and pothole all over the area and is a major destination on the flyway south. It also is a major breeding ground for various types of waterfowl. Because I fish the Glacial Lakes Region, I am familiar with this country.
Licensing for me was a problem. The state is divided into four zones and you pick the zone you want to hunt in and then apply for a license. There were a lot of lodges, but this just seemed too weather dependent for me and my friends. One of the many spots also featured pheasant hunting. South Dakota has outstanding pheasants. All the outfitters were guided and all showed excellent results from previous hunts. There were fully equipped lodges to the hunting spot only and you supplied your own food and lodging.
Next, I took a look at Missouri. I found a few places south of me along the Missouri River. One lodge provided outstanding services from a first class lodge, meals, and everything supplied. You would bring your gun, clothing, and ammunition. It was over my budget as I also hunted elk in the fall in Idaho and had an outstanding experience.
Since my wife is from Sidney, Nebraska, we have traveled I-80 across the state many times a year and especially in the fall. We have always noticed the large flocks of ducks and geese west of Kearney, Nebraska to the state line. There is a definite weather shift as you go west due to the increase of the altitude change. The air gets dryer and seems to be more like Denver weather. Snow will not necessarily hang around a long time. Also, there has been a shift in farming practices along the Platte River bottom lands. The crops previously planted were primarily winter wheat, but now has shifted to corn, beans, and wheat. Corn is candy to ducks and geese.
Checking out some hunting spots along the Platte River, I found some people at Paxton, Nebraska that operated blinds along the Platte River. I am very familiar with that area as a close college friend of mine has farms south of Paxton. When my wife and I drive out to Sidney, we stop and have lunch or dinner with them. Therefore, my first call was to Ed to find out about the owners. He came back with really good recommendations.
Central Nebraska Outfitters (http://www.centralnebraskaoutfitters.com/) was the outfitter we decided to work with. After contacting Jim Martinosky the owner, I liked what I heard and then contacted a couple of club members that I had hunted with over the years to see if they would go with me. One could make it and the decision was made. There is no lodging, but Paxton has a Days Inn and we get a special rate for hunting with Jim. The motel has a room for cleaning birds and if we do not want to do that, they have people in town that will clean them for us at a reasonable fee per bird. The motel also has tags and freezer facilities for us to store game until we leave. This is gentleman hunting and for me that is tradition.
|Bringing in another duck. Gone are the days.|
Food is on our own also, but with a big breakfast and dinner, all we both need is a snack around noon. There are restaurants in Paxton that open up early. I know about the restaurants since I have eaten in Paxton many times. After all, this is a farming community and people are up early to get the work done or just sit and talk about work and weather in the local cafes.
Jim recommended we plan on hunting ducks Mid-December as the birds migrate out of the sand hill lakes and pot holes around that time and head to the Platte River and the surrounding fields for food and water. The plan is to hunt the river bottom in the morning and move to the fields in the afternoon. It looks like we will be hunting all day, and it can’t get any better than that.
I have always experienced the best duck hunting when it was really cold in late November and early December. On December 11th, we will be heading to Paxton, Nebraska for three days of what we hope will be some fine gentleman hunting for Mallard ducks.
Good Hunting, good Fishing, and good Luck. Hank