Bird Dog & Retriever News

June / July 2003 issue Page 38

 "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 air.
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

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