Bird Hunting Before the Midseason Break

Matt had an excellent Friday night. He headed out to nearby Mud Lake just as I was leaving to go to work. Half way through the night, I checked my phone during a lull- two mallards, and two Canada geese. Both geese banded, and shot within minutes of each other. What did I get out of Friday night? Mostly clothes that smelled like fried cod, lower leg pain, and shoddy tips. 

Both were banded in Madison this summer, so they were resident birds

Both were banded in Madison this summer, so they were resident birds

Large pleated bags + the vacuum sealer made short work of them.

Large pleated bags + the vacuum sealer made short work of them.

Matt also hunted Saturday morning while I was at work, though this time he has less luck. Frustrated by the usual problems of Madison hunting- too many people in too small a space- we decided to branch out this weekend and look for new hunting places.

One was a place we found late this summer, a duck stamp-funded project called Shoveler’s Sink west of town. It looked perfect.

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No people (though we did find a makeshift blind in the tall grass and an upturned bucket), but also no ducks. We saw single and paired birds flying, but pretty high up, and none took a look at us. A large flock of geese passed, and they turned a bit to our honking. But three goose decoys aren’t going to get a flock like that to land, no matter how heartfelt the calling is.

Our second try at a new spot was a bit more of a disaster. For some reason, we thought it was a good idea to give the Wisconsin River another go in something other than a canoe or kayak. We put in at Sauk City, and headed downstream. Another shear pin (we had a spare), and a lot of grinding on the rocky bottom, and we were set up in a promising location.

Setting decoys as a front begins to roll in.

Goose prints in the sand

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Setting decoys as a front begins rolling through

We saw ducks here and there, and a few geese flew nearby, but nothing was really interested in us today, either. After white knuckling a bit of the way downstream, though, I did not want to attempt the trip back to the launch in the dark. I pestered Matt to leave well before dusk, and I’m glad we did.

The first quarter of the way back was no problem, even if slow. The first rapids we came to, however, matched our poor little 3 horse outboard and we came to a standstill. Luckily, the shallow water threatening our only remaining shear pin meant we could push the boat past them. But closer up to the launch, an old train bridge and more rapids, these deeper and the rocks bigger. Our 3hp was overpowered again, twice, as we attempted to go around the rapids. The third time was the charm, however by then it was full dark. We still had half a mile to go, and I was seriously worried we’d be left stranded against the current- the rock that broke our shear pin on the way down was just above the railroad bridge. Surely we’d hit it in the dark. We bottomed out just under the bridge again, and had to push our way around a sandbar, as local walleye fishermen gaped at our ungainly process from the other (deep) side of the river. We pushed on, with a broken prop. We moved at a crawl upstream, and finally made it to the truck an hour and a half after we started back. I won’t be on the Wisconsin again unless in a canoe or kayak, or someone else’s boat. It’s not worth it.

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5 thoughts on “Bird Hunting Before the Midseason Break

    • We have a couple weeks left for ducks, and until December 21st for geese, so we should get a few more (we hope). Once the weather gets cold, Mud Lake will be a lot less crowded, so we won’t have to go to such great lengths to get away from people.

  1. Hey check out the Kickapoo River as well. It was super calm and surrounded by state forest. I jumped several ducks near Rockton, but I was focused on squirrel annihilation.

    • I’ve always wanted to drive to La Crosse via US14. We’ve only ever gone there via I90. Your little vacation out in the Driftless Area has me envious- we might have to take a look out there this season or next- lots of trout streams out that way, too. I think at this point, we’re well accustomed to the mediocre and frustrating. It’s just unnerving to face possibly being stranded on a river because your poor outboard can’t hang.

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