"Waterfowl In The Land Of The Lakota"
By Ted Jarosh
My watch indicated legal shooting time as the eastern horizon
blushed its first brush stroke of pale orange. As if on cue,
a squadron of mallards appeared in an uneven knot and headed
for our field decoys. The ducks swung around the four of us as
we lay shivering in our coffin blinds. They lined up downwind,
cupping their whistling spitfire wings, and riding an invisible
escalator down into the decoys. "Take 'em, " Mike Schell,
our guide, breathed.
My gun was already pointed. The lead drake tumbled at my opening
shot. I turned and began chopping through the rest of the flock.
From that point one can only guess at who shot what, but the
three ducks I aimed at tumbled after my shots.
As the smoke cleared, seven big mallards had bounced off the
tilled, hard, North Dakota ground. We barely had time to reload
before more ducks zeroed in on our decoys, and Mike was calling
shots again. For two solid hours we had legal waterfowl in the
Snow geese spiced up the hunt. Within a half hour of shooting
time they were lifting off a distant lake behind us and heading
on a low quavering rope toward the massive decoy spread we'd
set in the inky predawn.
This put us in an interesting position. The ducks were coming
in from in front, the geese from behind. Our guide asked us to
pass up easy shots at mallards to let the geese come. I watched
mallards in easy range from over my shoulder as we waited for
the geese to get in range. When they did, we blew through the
geese. A nice double on pristine snow geese which had taken a
line far to my side was the high point of my personal hunt.
While I was on an eventually successful wild goose chase, running
down the second half of that double, the guys from Pennsylvania
had opportunities to dump geese from a flock of Canadas, and
a second flock of mostly Blue geese. Both hunters were first
time waterfowlers who had won a contest through Delta Waterfowl
Association to come and hunt out of Woodland Resort in Devils
Lake. The resort had donated the hunt as a means of giving back
to the sport.
My good retriever Elwood had been left behind at the request
of the guides, who doubtless had seen more than a few customers
"great" duck dogs ruin hunts with bad behavior. Mine
would have been helpful on the inevitable chases, and I lamented
not having him around. Later that very day, the Mike Schell informed
me that he had purchased a Chocolate retriever pup to do the
retrieving for the 2003 season.
This was as close to waterfowl heaven as I ever expect to get.
As I drove lonely highway 2 west from Fargo to Devils Lake the
previous day, I was constantly viewing the various and sundry
puddles and ponds which give this "pothole region"
its moniker. But my head was on a swivel. At least half of these
waters had big flocks of dabbling