It's been a while since I donned the waders in a slopping pile of mud. Last week I did just that, and boy did it feel good. Tuesday night I jumped in the truck filled with my huntin' buddies, Dusty, Scott, Jeff and Sean from Waconia, MN. For us, it was a much anticipated trip to North Dakota for ducks, geese, pheasants and anything else that flies. For the most part, we were after mallards in that picture perfect field hunt setting, but on trips like this, we do anything necessary to get the job done. Once we get our fill of chasing ducks, then we switch gears, drop the camoflouge and sport the blaze orange, following the dog through the weeds in search of roosters. It's chaotic, exciting, overwhelming and exhausting, but that is why we love hunting in Nodak, and we certainly don't waste a minute of daylight during our trips.
Wednesday morning we learned exactly how our week would be spent. Mud was the word, and sloppy was an understatement. We met up with Young Ben, a friend of mine that attends college in Fargo, and he took us to a mallard honey hole. Hoping for that perfect mallard shoot in the "dry" field, Ben greeted us with the comment, "oh, and you guys need to bring your waders, leave the blinds in the truck." Yes, we were hunting a field, but the darn thing was flooded, along with half of the other fields in NoDak. Oh well, we didn't care and followed Ben's orders to Mallard heaven. Soon after we were reminded why we love hunting in the centrer of the flyway as we cut mallards that were tumbling into our meager little spread of 6 decoys and 2 spinning wings.
After the completion of our Wednesday morning hunt, we continued our drive to the final destination in the central part of the state. Steele was the town, and it was about two more hours west. Slowly we drove out of the insanely flooded field country and into the area that we had hunted for the past 7 years. We hunted and scouted hard for two days before things started to click for us. While we enjoyed the dry areas in the middle of the state, the duck numbers were less and so were our results. The ducks were enjoying the sloppy wet fields to the east, which meant that we too would have to suck it up and follow the migration the way nature intended it to be. With a sigh, we packed our gear and headed back to scout the muddy field waters. It took us about 5 minutes to find thousands of mallards. We locked about a dozen locations in our GPS in a matter of hours, and obtained permission to the privately owned duck havens.
While this was quite a drive, it was clearly worth it. The next morning we slopped through the mud to the waters edge and put out our small ducky spread. Then we laid our nice looking coffin blinds in the mud and spread the muddy goo all over the outside. As the skies to the east started to glow, we were bombarded by ducks by the hundreds. It really was the hunt of a lifetime, the reason for our trip and the reason that I will be back next year. During the next few hours we picked out greenies and folded 'em like we knew what we were doing. As we filled our limit we just laughed at the sight of everything we had just done. The blinds were covered in mud, inside and out, and everything we touched had a layer of black somewhere on it. It was crazy, but so worth it!
As I returned to thank the farmer that gave us permission, he chuckled at the sight of what I had become. My face covered in a muddy war-paint, I told him thank you for the hunt of a lifetime. He obliged and continued to laugh. Looking back at it all, I would have been laughing if I were him too. We looked ridiculous, our white truck was brownish black and our gear the same. If you are a duck hunter, it just doesn't get any better than that. If you are a farmer, then you will laugh at the guy that pulls up to your front door. That's just how it is, and that will never change! For us, all the work that we put in will be forgotten, but that hunt will remain in our memory 'til we retire.
The rest of the trip was more of the same, along with some "dry" pheasant hunts that kept us occupied when we weren't swimming in the muddy fields. We laughed uncontrollably at times, and we got to watch Jeff's pup, Bella, retrieve her first ducks and flush her first pheasants. The only negative part of the trip was that I chose not to bring the camera into the muddy hunts and the pictures will have to be remembered in our minds instead of on film. Oh well, those memories will be stuck in my mind forever. That's what North Dakota is all about, and that is why I can't wait 'til next year! Until then, Keep on livin' the dream!
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