A Season of Highest Highs, Trying Times, New Beginnings & Hard Goodbyes
The Fall ’14 Duck Season has passed…and although we always hate to see it end, the memories remain strong! As with every year, Mother Nature calls the shots, and that means that no two seasons are the same. Fall '14 proved to be no exception!
The much anticipated opener came and many ducks were here. The temperatures the first two weeks were in the 70's to mid 80’s…which is very unseasonably warm for us. The hunting was still good with plenty of full straps and happy clients at Habitat Flats, but swatting mosquitos while shooting ducks during regular Duck Season is not what I would prefer! All that came to a change, and did so abruptly.
The major front that everybody was talking about around the 10th of November was one for the ages. A massive cold front approached, sweeping down from Alaska, across prairie Canada, the Dakotas, Minnesota and pointing South. I enjoyed the last hunt with my Old Dog Ruff on a 75* November afternoon, and the next morning, the front hit with below freezing wind chills. We went from swatting mosquitos to running ice eaters in just a couple days. This was much like the famed Armistice Day storm I read so much about in my youth.
I was up early the morning the front hit, well before it was time to leave to go to the Lodge, as I couldn't sleep due to the excitement. I walked outside to let the dogs out and heard Specks and Snows migrating in the dark overhead. After a couple cups of coffee and some emails, it was time to head out. I went out to load the dogs up, and still there were Specks and Snows overhead. After the short five minute drive to the Lodge, I stepped out of the truck and again heard the geese above...my mind was a mess of thoughts about what the day might hold. After a quick breakfast, I loaded up my guys and off we went. Still an hour before daylight we shut the UTV off at the blind to unload….Specks and Snows STILL migrating overhead and echoing in every direction. At this point, my mind was a trainwreck of thoughts about what the day might hold...this last hour until shooting time seemed to drag on forever, only interrupted by the sounds of migrating waterfowl and whistling wings. This was it, this was the Grand Passage.
At daylight, all my hopeful thoughts played out in front of my very eyes. Flock after flock of migrating ducks and geese flooded out of the North. It was a site for sore eyes and left little to imagination. I remember the Armistice Day migration of 1998 on the big West wind, and while incredibly impressive, it didn't hold a candle to this one. This kicked off what might have been the best November of duck hunting I've ever been fortunate enough to see. Thousands upon thousands of fresh mallards rushed into the area, more than willing to play the game. Big bunches, working the call like they are supposed to, close shooting...exactly what we dream about all off-season. The temps were very cold, but the ice eaters did their job.
And just like that, in the midst of the greatest waterfowling I’ve witnessed at Habitat Flats, the weather changed yet again. Mother Nature and her curveballs.
The first full moon in December shown brightly upon a landscape of unseasonably warm temperatures. It kicked off a period of time I would like to forget as a duck hunter...the cloudiest three weeks I've ever seen. It was like Groundhog Day....cloudy and calm, or a light East wind if we were lucky, for days on end. We still managed to provide healthy hunts with our attractive waterfowl habitat, but gone were the big bunches in tight of just days earlier. As it turned out, we got all of our ducks for the year on the big front in November. The ducks we were killing in December were the same ones that had gotten in a month prior. They had become smart and had the weather was in their favor. Given my druthers, I'd take 60 straight days of sunshine and a 15 mph wind out of any direction. We are not a big fan of clouds during duck season around here. The hunting was still good, but it took a little longer as most of the shooting was singles and pairs.
All in all, it was another incredible season. The memories will forever be burned in my mind. Everything from swatting mosquitos to incredible walls of migrating ducks at daylight. For me, the one that stands out is watching my old dog Ruff pick up his last greenhead. It still tears me up inside, as he has been my go-to hunting partner and best friend for 13 years. A month after watching him retrieve his last greenhead, I was burying him at Love Lake...one of our favorite places where his mark upon countless greenheads will be engrained forever.
I always hate to see Duck Season end; it's bittersweet. There is nothing like greenheads in the sunshine...but I am looking forward to hunting Canadas and can't wait to get under some big Snow Goose spins this Spring. I can rest easy knowing Old Ruff Dog will watch over Love Lake this off-season, and that he will be there on the 2015 Opener ready and waiting to watch the show that takes place. Next Fall might not be like any other Opener either of us has seen...but then again, they never are the same!
I hope you all enjoy the rest of your season, and thank you as always for following along! Duck Season is good for the soul…but the season approaches that is good for the ADRENALINE. Looking forward to bringing you in my blind in the Snow Goose spread!!!