This past weekend, my hunting partners were my brother (Ron), 4 nephews (Mik, Jeremy, Freddie and Jeff), a lifetime friend (Noel) and Duke, my Yellow Lab. My brother had taken them on youth openers in the past so it was fulfilling to see them all enjoying to hunt, many years later.
The morning started on cue w/ wood ducks descending from the sky with little or no warning. The rumble of gunfire in the distance, was an early morning wake-up call to all the wildlife in the area. Based on the continual gun fire around the Lake Elizabeth area, the duck opener was one to remember. The low water conditions seemed to congregate the ducks into fewer areas, so the more concentrated flocks were a welcomed sight to hunters. With the split season ending on Sunday, September 30th in the Central Zone, (Willmar area), this weekend should again be popular with the area’s hunters. The Central Zone which is bordered by State Highway 210 on the north and US Highway 212 on the south, will be closed from October 1st to October 5th.
As I looked down the shoreline at the strategically placed duck blinds accompanied by the afore mentioned participants, I was reminded that one important member of our party was not present; my son Tyler. It was almost surreal that Tyler was not there; Tyler had moved to Dickinson, ND in June for his job. Even though I talk to Tyler almost daily his absence made me reflect on the past openers with my son since Tyler has hunted with me since he was 4.
Tyler would not let me leave without him so at any early age it was decided he was a member of the hunting party. Tyler had traveled with me to North Dakota, Saskatchewan Canada and South Dakota for hunting trips. Starting at 8 years old we would hunt the youth opener in North Dakota followed by the youth opener in Minnesota. Tyler quickly became a good shot and held his own against any hunter from about the age of 12. I will be traveling to North Dakota next month to hunt with my son, which I will never take for granted; I love you and miss you Tyler!!
As the north wind continued to blow with gusts pushing 30 mph, the ducks looking for shelter and harassed by the invasion of hunters, kept decoying to our set until about 11:00am. The total tally was 17 wood ducks and 1 blue-winged teal, realistically we should have shot our limit of wood ducks….We never lost a bird thanks to Duke. Despite being very hyper with all the mornings activity, Duke, performed his job admirably….
Our shooting was far from perfect at the beginning but as the day progressed our aim was more true. Talking with the party members we were amazed at the speed the ducks were flying (wind was a factor)…Maybe it was attributed to our age or lack of “cat like reactions”? Hmm….
After the hunt, with everyone safe and sound and a bit exhausted from an “O’Dark Thirty” wake-up I was pleased and thankful for the days hunt. We had accomplished our goal of a safe and successful hunt.
I plan on duck hunting this weekend and also spending some time in the deer stand so I will provide some hopefully entertaining stories and reflections.