Doug, the author and a group limit
I just returned from the duck hunting trip to Stuttgart, Arkansas, that I mentioned to you a couple weeks ago.
My friend Jay Riley and I took a leisure 720 miles (1.160 Km) road trip from Michigan to Arkansas, and in the way down we first stopped at Cabela’s in the Indiana/Illinois border in order to acquire a couple items that we could not live without (including a new hat for me), and then overnighted in Mount Vernon, Il. We arrived late Tuesday afternoon, and after meeting Dave Helge and his son Josh we went to Mack’s Prairie Wings to buy licenses and some other toys.
Upon returning to the lodge for dinner I met Doug, the guided that I hunted with last year and that owns Rudy, the brown lab that I “bravely” rescued from an iced pond. Until now I never gave much thought to last year’s incident, but clearly it meant something very imported to Doug, as he warmly saluted me and said that we would hunt together this week. All the newcomers were already aware of the story, and Lyle Zetterlund, the organizer of our annual duck hunting trips, mentioned that he considered bringing me a pair of “floaties” to keep me safe.
As usual we stayed up too long during the night, some of us had one too many drink, and everybody was up for breakfast at 4:30 AM.
It is impressive how much a place can change and still be the same. In 2010 Arkansas had record high floods and I never had seen so much mud in my life, last year we had record low temperatures and whole country side was frozen solid, and with so little open water ducks were very concentrated and the shooting was frantic. Now this year we had some unseasonable warm weather through most of the Midwest, and ducks were scattered all the way from Minnesota to Arkansas, all along the Mississippi flyway.
On the first morning Doug took us to a blind on some flooded timber overlooking a lake, but duck’s were just avoiding us and our decoys, and after about one hour we relocated to some minnow ponds just south of I-40, and there we had a blue bill day. Basically only Blue Bills were decoying, and we shot our limit plus one Golden Eye hen that Dave shot.
On that evening Doug really honored me by inviting me to join him at the guide’s lounge where we talked hunting and shared some excellent Patron tequila.
During the night the temperature dropped to below freezing and the wind picked up to over forty miles per hour (65 Km/h), so we found a pond with a levy high enough to protect us from the wind and had to face the rising sun and increasingly blue sky. Ducks were shy of the decoys and flying hard on the wind and shooting was challenging to say the least. (Not that our shotgunning abilities help a lot!)
On Friday the temperature dropped a bit more but the wind calmed down and it was much comfortable than the previous day. We hunted a pond by the “Millionaire’s Club”, a very exclusive duck hunting and bass fishing club with an admission fee of one million two hundred fifty thousand dollars!
This time we had the sun to our back, almost no wind, ducks that were decoying every time they flew by, and by 10:00 AM we had our limit of Shovellers, Gadwalls and Mallards. Rudy performed brilliantly with some really long retrieves and I don’t think that we lost a single bird this day. We drove back to the lodge to pack and start the drive back home.
We left Arkansas with a balmy 41 Fahrenheit (5 Celsius) and the temperature dropped hour by hour as we drove north, and by the time we reached Michigan the temperature was around 20 Fahrenheit (-7 Celsius) and we were in the middle of a snow storm.
One final note before I tire you. Over the last three years I tried all sort of different non-toxic ammunition from several different manufacturers, and my observation is that they all lack in killing power to good lead shot that we use on upland birds and, when hunting in Uruguay, waterfowl. I believe that all over the country a lot more wounded and crippled ducks are lost and die, than ducks that would be potentially poisoned by lead shot.