Late Friday night, we began the trek up north for a hunting trip. I got off work and home around 8:45, and we left the house by about 9:30. The drive to Matt’s grandfather’s hunting land takes about 4 hours. We got there and in bed by around 2.
Last Saturday was the duck opener in the northern zone of Wisconsin, and Matt’s brother had been scouting the creek on the land the night before. His quote was, I believe, 300 ducks. Shooting time on opening day is 9:00 am. We were up around 6:30, getting things in our canoe, when Matt’s brother and his friend showed up with a canoe of their own. They’re duck hunting newbies like us.
We got the canoes in, and followed Matt’s brother upstream. This particular creek had at one point been a Class A trout stream, until the DNR seeded it with wild rice, slowing down the current and forcing silt to settle. It’s now a swampy little creek. Sad for the trout fishing, but the ducks just love the wild rice.
Paddling Dragging and shoving canoes though it wasn’t any fun, but eventually we found a spot. We got one little teal that day- luckily no more than that, because finding that one duck when it fell into the rice was incredibly difficult. We need to get a retriever.
We called it around 10:30, and began to paddle back. We marked a spot that we figured would be better hunting, as the water wasn’t choked with rice here. Any falling birds would be easier to go get, and we could walk to a spot on the bank from the cabin.
We returned to the cabin to warm up and have lunch. Temps the night before had been in the 30s, and it was chilly in the morning, the day’s high was maybe 49, and windy. Brother’s friend was heading out for the day, but Matt, Brother, and I were all hunting- Brother and I for deer, Matt for turkey. Matt helped me put up my ladder stand- literally behind the cabin, over a mineral lick and some apples. Then he headed off to his grandpa’s farm, about 40 minutes away.
I got into my stand way earlier than I needed to, with it so close to the cabin. I was up there by 2:30. So, I spent the next 3 and a half hours looking around at the woods, nervously counting the piles of bear shit (my bow is not powerful enough to kill a bear, I’d only piss it off) mere feet from the base of my ladder, and trying not to doze off. The first deer I saw that night appeared right around 6pm. They were well out of range, but I still enjoyed watching them- a doe and a large fawn. They wandered around in front of me for a bit, and the doe stopped to stare towards my stand. I thought she saw me, but she probably just smelled the apples under me. They left for a while, and I saw another deer even farther away doing deer things. A skunk scurried by, and I listened to coyotes for a bit, nervous at first that they were wolves.
Much closer to dark, I was thinking about undoing my safety harness and going inside (I am not used to the cold yet- the week before, we’d had temps near 90, and all of a sudden it was 45 and windy). The doe and her fawn showed back up. They wanted apples. The fawn crunched on the mineral lick for a bit, but the doe went to town on the apples. She was picking them up and flinging them. Not to mention chewing, snorting, and gulping so loud I could barely keep from laughing. She was healthy- big, fat, and sleek. I had only brought my buck tag with me, thinking my doe tags were only good for our area in Madison- they say CWD/Herd Control, and my buck tag says “Statewide”. So, I thought I had to pass on her. Plus, she had a fawn with her. So, I could have gotten my first deer, but decided not to. She hung out under my stand for a good 20 minutes, clowning it up, until Brother pulled back up to the cabin from the back 40. I headed in, and once Matt showed up, we grabbed burgers at a bar in town. Then we passed out hard. More hunting in the morning.
We were up by 5 the next morning. We wanted to squeeze in some more duck hunting before jetting back to Madison so Matt could brief some kids about to ship to boot camp. Plus, opening weekend is this coming Saturday in the southern zone, and we know how crowded things get down here- it was nice to only have one other pair of guys hunting. It was a gorgeous day, dawning sunny and chilly at 35. A fog did spring up just as the sun came up, keeping a lot of birds on the water. Eventually we were able to do some shooting.
Brother’s friend got himself a nice teal drake. Matt got a wood duck drake. Brother’s gun jammed pretty hard, and he wasn’t able to shoot anything. But. I got my first duck. A mallard hen. A group of about 4 birds buzzed over us while Matt was searching the trees on the opposite bank for a fallen duck. Dismayed that we couldn’t call them in, we watched them fly away. But they turned, and they came back to us. She was flying directly at me. I lined my shot up, squeezed, and watched her crumple into the weeds near the bank. A smaller version of that rush I got from my first deer bloomed in my chest. I walked down the bank to grab my duck. Matt promised to mount it for me, and it’s sitting in tanning solution right now.
Not a bad start to duck season, even if I have to work during our local opener.