A Cold Barrel, A Muddy Lab and One Great Hunt!

written 12 November 2010, by Ralph H.


Usually the second weekend is pretty slow with all the local birds shell shocked from the opener and the northern migrants still way up north. In addition, we had a pretty good south wind blowing which tends to blow the majority of ducks north to the upper limits of the wetlands (grasslands).

Stillbow Ranch, Inc. is situated in the southeastern corner of the wetlands and shoots best with a northwestern wind so it wasn’t looking too bright.

As luck would have it I was #1 pick on Saturday, so I had my choice of blind on the whole club.

After awakening, I walked over to the lodge and poured my first cup of coffee while the rest of the crew gathered for breakfast. After a good dose of ribbing to those still wounded and foggy headed from the previous evening, I was ready to go. One hour before shoot time our club commences “draw." Being first, I chose a very nice blind on a point that is surrounded by a horseshoe shaped pond. At Stillbow, it is known as blind #30. Next I grabbed my freshly filled thermos, put on my waders and jacket and a grabbed an extra box of shells. (I was thinking why do I need these extra shells on this lifeless morning, I’m probably just going to end up watching another beautiful sunrise with a cold barrel and a steamy wet, muddy lab.)


Trudging out to the shed, I fired up my ATV and backed it out. My buddy Dave was all ready to go when I pulled up in front of our trailer area. Lets see, duck calls ... check; bug juice... check; dog ... check; gun ... whoops. Back into the lodge to grab my shotgun as it wouldn’t be much of shoot without that. After motoring for about five minutes we arrived at the blind. We unloaded our gear and set up, then parked the quads about 100 yards back behind the blind.


A few minutes later I had settled in and poured myself a thermos cup full of coffee. As we sat waiting with anticipation, the dark turns to gray and we can hear whistling wings and occasional splashes of landing waterfowl. Occasionally we could make out the shapes flying above and of the wind powered duck decoys spinning coyly to those who look from above. This is what I call the countdown, and I alternate between sipping coffee, calling birds and repeatedly checking my watch for start time.


Shoot time is 30 minutes before sunrise and it changes every week throughout the season. Finally the time to shoot arrives, surprise, there are no ducks. About the time I start thinking, boy did those ducks wise up in one week. Dave grabs the attention of a lone drake with a soft mallard call. The mallard is convinced we are legit and comes straight down aiming for a hole in our decoy spread right in the middle of our pond. At about 35 yards up, I rise and he starts back-pedaling and fighting to reverse course. I can’t recall an easier shot in my many, many years as he had broken his decent to neutral and was just hanging in mid air when I sent the swarm of 1-1/8 ounce supersonic steel shot hurtling his way --not quite a sitting duck, but a lot like plucking a hanging apple from a low branch.


As the shot connects cleanly and he starts to drop my buddy puts a round into him just to make sure. (That’s just the way he is!) The bird is an easy retrieve for Magnum, and when he brings it in I notice it is nice drake Green- head. Great start...As the morning progresses we can hear a barrage of shooting at the open water portion of our club, in an area we call the “big pond”. So far this year it is full of can- vasbacks and redheads as they have an affinity for big bodies of water. Too bad you can only shoot 1 can per day. Our shoot has moments of brilliance, with periods of silence and then finally tapers off to nothingness. In the end we didn’t have much shooting, but I was lucky enough to stringer 4 mallards and 3 Greenwing teal by about 10AM. One mallard hen and a teal were shot at precisely the same instance so we divided them between us. Leaving me with three drake mallards and two Greenwing teal for the freezer. We lost one Cinnamon teal, after a long search.

All in all, a pretty good shoot for this time in the year and a pretty nice stringer of ducks as well.


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