by Mark Walters
Duck Dog Challenge
If you were floating in my brain you would know that my thoughts are all over the map.
Dogs, ducks, deer, cutting firewood, raising my daughter, and putting up food that I grew this year.
This fall the above situations are all on my mind a lot. I love to duck hunt just about as much, if not even more, as I love making meat out of a healthy whitetail deer, buck, or doe, no cares, always quality.
My golden retriever, Fire, is three in a few days and has gone through two hunting related setbacks. The first was when she was 9 months old and her pal Ice died. Ice died in August and Fire went into a severe depression during her first hunting season. With help from friends we worked through that.
This fall Selina’s cat had kittens and Fire stole them from the mother cat, grew breasts and would not come out of her dog/kitten house.
When I took her duck hunting and told her to fetch ducks she totally ignored me.
The kittens are all given away and I think Fire is normal again.
I picked the backwaters of the Mississippi River, near Trempeleau, for a duck hunt and sleep over to test my dog, actually Selina’s dog.
If Fire failed, I was going to be purchasing a male by March.
Thursday, October 17th
High 57, low 36
Here is the scoop, I am living out of my canoe, paddling the backwaters south of Trempealeau, and have an afternoon and then a morning to hunt.
I ice fish and winter camp this area, but still managed to get myself a bit lost today as I paddled over four miles, and in that time only saw four ducks.
I did find about a two-acre pond in a sea of wild rice and knew that if there were any ducks in the area they would work this pond.
The first thing that I did was create my nest, which was a matter of paddling my canoe to dry land, knocking over a bunch of rice, putting a tarp on the ground, and my sleeping bag on that. There was rain in the forecast and so I covered my entire camp with a brown tarp and then headed out for the afternoon hunt where I knew Fire would do an incredible job if I dropped a duck.
Hunting ducks out of a canoe, or should I say shooting at ducks out of a canoe, can be a challenge, balance is an issue!
First thing I noticed was that there were quite a few mud boats passing by which I could not see, but could hear.
Second, Fire wants to curl up in a ball and sleep when we are hunting! Today I would have her sit, the dog is incredibly observant if sitting and often sees ducks before I do.
Long story short, very little action, test not complete.
I head to my muddy home for the night, drink a can of Pabst and it starts raining. I get in my sleeping bag, cover everything with the tarp and listen to rain hitting plastic.
Friday, October 18th
High 48, low 34
The wind switched to the north last night, there is a chill in the air that will tell the bucks that the does like them, and that same chill will send heavy, feathered mallards south from their summer home in Canada.
I could of shot a duck on the set this morning and would have gave Fire an easy retrieve.
I let the duck live, moments later a hen ringneck, came blazing by, I was not so merciful.
My trophy crashed about 30-yards away and there was some light vegetation between the canoe and Fire. Fire did a perfect retrieve and I was happy.
It would be a lie to say that there was very many ducks flying over my canoe this morning, but jeez did I have a smile on my face when another ringneck flew over and due to a load of steel, it will not be making the flight to Louisiana this fall.
The real smile was because this bird was the definition of a blind retrieve, it landed in vegetation, could not be seen, and though Fire heard it crash, she did not know where it fell. I sent my daughters perfectly trained and completely flawless golden retriever after her quarry and she was picture perfect.
When she swam back to the canoe with my duck, I did not care if I shot the gun again today, a major question was answered and Fire truly seemed to enjoy what she had achieved.
Love the river, Love duck hunting!
THIS WEEK’S COLUMN IS SPONSORED BY: Cedar Country Co-Operative.