Friday, January 1, 2016

Two Days of Mallards

Gander Mountain

A heavy snow storm rolled across the plains dumping about 2 to 4 inches in the Omaha/Council Bluffs area, but up north in Tekamah it was more like 5 to 6 inches.  Everyone thought the birds would overfly us and head on down to Squaw Creek Refuge.   That would be the end to the duck season, although the Canada geese would hang around as long as they could find water and food.  They are really tough.

The road from Tekamah up to the blind  was tough going as the plows had not hit the country roads and we had to drive in the ruts.  Thank goodness for four wheel drive otherwise a person would have slid off the road into the ditch.  The 1/3 of a mile walk to the blind was just as tough.  Then the work started.  Besides the snow, the temperature had dipped into the teens.  We had to keep reminding ourselves how much fun we were having.

The first thing to do is get out the duck decoys.  The pump in the small lake keeps the water moving so we always have about 10 acres of open water out of the 40 acres available.  The wind was light to west to northwest and the decoys were put up close to the blinds.  In that way the birds would fly into the calm water and would be coming straight into us.  It can't get any easier than that.  Next is to sweep all the snow off the Canada decoys that are on the ground outside the blinds.  I don't care how much clothing I put on or what type it is, this is cold work and a person is always looking forward to getting into the blinds as quickly as possible and get the heaters going.

Shooting time came and it looked really bleak.  There was nothing flying.

Looking south out of the blinds you can see the snow and gray skies.  It was really cold.

Slowly we started getting some traffic.  On a day like this because we have open water we have little competition on the bottoms.  Our only competition is the snow cover, but it was supposed to warm up and we would get a good melt.

Looking northeast out of the blinds you can see the water kept open by the circulating pump.  Notice the ripple and the calm water close to the Canada decoys.  This is a good thing. 

At first we had some local traffic.  You ask, how do you know?  They fly just out of gun range and circle and circle.  You can tell these are birds that have been there before.  When they get too low to the ground over the blinds, their bottoms must start to burn.  Fresh birds and migrators circle once or twice and drop right into the lake.  It is obvious, the locals do not communicate to the fresh birds. 
As the temperature rose, the sky cleared somewhat and we started to get fresh birds in small groups.  They could have been migrators that came in ahead of the storm, stopped, and now were going out to feed and have a drink.  
Duke brings in a bird while some of the hunters go out and give him a hand.
This process was repeated over and over again as small flocks of ducks would pay us a visit.
This is not a very good picture, but look at the size of that mallard drake.  He is almost the size of a barnyard duck.  That is a good sign that the birds are really healthy. He will eat well.

By early afternoon we had a limit of mallards and we all pulled out.  The weather was warming up as quickly as it had cooled down and the snow was melting.  Next morning would be an excellent shoot.

What a pleasure the drive north was the following day up to Tekamah.  The roads were all clear and there were no ice patches on the highway.  The department had done a good job yesterday of getting all that snow and ice off the highway. 

After leaving the Big Chicken eight hunters headed to the blinds.  From snow packed roads to sloppy gravel roads, the drive up made my vehicle a mess.   The area where we park was just as bad if not worse.  The snow had melted and it was sloppy and muddy.  Getting out would be a problem. 

In the blinds there was no work to do as we had left the decoys in the lake due to the warm up.  The ducks came early.  It was not even shooting time and we had mallards circling and dropping into the decoys.  If they would all hang around till shooting time, we could end this very quickly, but I've never seen that happen.  We might get one to three.  They just all seem to leave right before the time arrives.

This morning we were getting a mix of Canada geese and mallards.  First one flock and then another.  This went on all morning and with the wind westerly to northerly.  The shots came easy as they would ease into the final approach heading straight into the blinds.  All we had to do was pick our bird.
Jack brings in another bird. 

 This time of the year our Canada shooting picks up but now we are getting mostly mallards.  The best part of the day is the dogs.  Every one in the club  considers the work the dogs do the highlight of the day.  They are always so eager to head into the water regardless of how cold it is and fetch birds and bring them back.  On this day we had two dogs working for us.  They are one man dogs and stay close to their owners and pay little attention to the hunters. 
Generally I do not get a good shot with the camera but this group of Canada geese were just floating into the decoy spread and made a good picture.  
Mallards and Canada geese made for a great day.

Gander Mountain


Good hunting, good fishing and good luck.  Hank


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