Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Disaster Strikes

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My wife and I arrived back from our vacation to Japan mid November.  It took me just 24 hours to get my clock turned around and I was ready to hit the blinds and pound the ducks.  I found what was going on hard to believe.  The corn was out and the weather all the way up to North Dakota was mild with predominantly southerly flow.  What a disappointment.

Anyway, after keeping in close contact with my friends in the club, we learned that a day of northerly winds was forecast with cooler temperatures.  This would only last a couple of days then switch to the west, and back to the south.  A hunter has to do what he has to do.  What was interesting was generally in the early part of the season a north wind would fill all three blinds.  This time, there was a lot of discouragement and only a blind and a half showed up.

Temperatures were still above freezing, but the north wind was strong and gusty and the birds would be hanging over the decoys as they would turn into the wind.  This would be excellent shooting.  

Shooting time came and went and there was no migration to speak of.  This was a major disappointment.  It seems I am using this word over and over again.

Just for a little history about this outstanding duck hole.  I joined the club 16 years ago, and usually this time of the year when I walked to the blinds, there would be 40 acres of quacking ducks.  They would all jump at once.  We would all get into the blinds and wait for their return.  Some came back, and at shooting time there was a really nice harvest.  Others went out to feed.  The ones coming back from feeding would have corn stalks and mud hanging off their feet.  Well fed birds are thirsty birds and here they came for a drink.  This was a duck hunters dream.

Part of this, some believe, was the fact that the farmers in the Dakotas were now growing corn and a friend of mine who farms in our area called the seed they planted 90 day corn.  They have a shorter growing season up north than we do in our area and the hybrid developed was for the northern states.  When corn had worked it's way to $7.00 per bushel the farmers went into the corn business.  Unless there was an early snow covering the ground after harvest, the birds hung around.

Second, some believe that the reserve at De Soto bend had changed the type of game it attracted.  Many years ago the managers would cater to waterfowl at the museum and there was a viewing area built where visitors could come and watch the birds.  Besides snow geese, the reserve would hold a couple of hundred thousand mallards.  What would the birds do but feed in the surrounding fields and our pits are only 20 miles straight north as the crow flies.  The farmers that farmed the fields on the reserve owned by the government were required to leave one third of the harvest on the ground. This would keep a lot of birds around.   Corn is cocaine to a mallard duck.

The new manager several years ago began managing the reserve for deer.  Waterfowl was not a primary goal and the birds kept going without the banquet on the ground waiting for them.  Recently, that has changed again and in checking reports at De Soto it was holding at one time up to fifty thousand mallards.  However, with the nice weather up to the Dakotas, nothing came down.  I called several times and asked the people at the reserve where the mallards were.  They said they were in the Dakotas.  I told them we were waiting for the migration, and they said they were too.

Anyway, one can always hope. 


Good Hunting Good Fishing and Good Luck,  Hank.

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