Posts Tagged ‘duck hunting’

In Memoriam: A Favorite Slough

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

Time is a concept I, like most of us I suppose, find difficult to grasp. It seems like only yesterday I was seven-years-old, peering out the school bus window and taking in the countryside. Being one of the first route stops in the morning and last drop-offs in the evening meant long rides, and after enough of them the ponds, wetlands, rivers, groves, draws and grasslands began to feel like old friends.

My favorite slough was just a couple miles up the road from home. At 20 acres, it wasn’t terribly big, but to a child’s eyes it seemed massive, only more so when ducks circled above. In addition to waterfowl, I could always count on spotting a few pheasants or deer hanging out around the edges. In the winter, those ringnecks took refuge in the cattails, their last line of defense against another battering blizzard.

Farmed wetland

Where a wetland once stood. Photo by Anthony Hauck / Pheasants Forever

My first solo duck hunts came at the slough, along with a word from the landowner to never bother asking for permission again. Paradise. Come colder weather, I’d trudge around those cattails trying to roust a rooster or two. And the more I was there, the more I wondered. How many thousands of years had the slough been a landmark on the annual migration? How many sharp-tailed grouse had danced nearby? How many creatures, large and small, had sipped water from its banks?

As I grew older, the slough remained a constant, though the cattail ring dwindled to accommodate a few extra rows of corn or beans. Even so, two years ago it was brimming with life, mallards, teal and canvasbacks, shorebirds and even crows from a couple roosters who wouldn’t dare show themselves. Last year brought a time of drought. Discouraged there would be no hunting, I reminded myself this was the natural part of any slough’s cycle.

And then, in the time it takes to do a load of laundry or buy a gallon of milk, a match was lit and a plow hitched…if you didn’t know, like it never even existed. Ten thousand years gone in ten minutes.

Seems like a good time to blame. To throw hands up in the air and do nothing. But it’s as good a time as any to try and make a difference. Before somebody else’s favorite slough runs out of time.

Anthony’s Antics Afield is written by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.organd follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.

Hunting Led Me to Conservation

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

A buddy and I were talking the other day about the old days when we first started hunting (with shotguns and .22s that is…I started BB gun hunting earlier). For me, real gun hunting started in 1967 when I was 12. My buddy and I both grew up in far south central Minnesota, which was known then (and still is) as the “black desert” due to intensive farming.

Since no one in my family ever hunted, I first hunted by myself. I got my first duck that way. A neighbor took me pheasant hunting, and I got my first rooster that way. I eventually made a hunting friend at school who lived in the country (perfect!). There was no goose, dove or turkey hunting back then because there were no turkeys, geese were very rare and dove hunting had been outlawed (I’m proud to say I helped get it reinstated in Minnesota a few years back). We didn’t hunt deer in those days because we were young, inexperienced and lacked someone to show us how to take on such a big task.

The Pheasants Forever magazine editor’s early conservation involvement included making wood duck nesting boxes back in 1971. Photo courtesy of Mark Herwig / Pheasants Forever

We hunted what few pheasants and ducks there were on a few wetlands that couldn’t be ditched and when we ran out of those, we hunted the ditches. Thinking of it now, walking those barren ditches was pathetic. We were walking what was pretty much a biological desert, but we kept trying as only naiveté, over-enthusiastic youth with boundless energy can. We’d read Outdoor Life during the week and then would go out and look for that life on weekends. We never found it. We never shot limits of anything. Granted, we weren’t that good at hunting, but the opportunities were very limited.

I will never forget, and this happened several times, hunting a wetland in fall and returning to it the next fall only to find a ditch running through it, corn on both sides. In those days, the federal government paid farmers to drain wetlands and farm them. It was policy. So, when I heard about a group of local hunters starting an effort to “Save the Wetlands: Save the Ducks,” I joined up. Seeing those wetlands destroyed didn’t discourage me, it made me angry and motivated me to do something about it, and I did …and still am. I didn’t need to be spoon-fed hunting or bribed to do something about habitat loss to get involved: the beauty of nature and the adventure of hunting were motivation enough.

It’s heartening to see some young people today, many in Pheasants Forever’s youth programs, rising to conservation’s cause as we face another habitat crisis (well, let’s be honest: a human crisis foisted upon the environment).

Though I shot my first pheasant on a private corn field (which is probably still in corn), I bagged my first duck on a public lake that’s still public, and my first goose on a private wetland that’s now public (my buddy called the neighbors to come see and they came, it was that rare to see a goose, much less bag one). I hope these areas are still making memories for folks and they, too, take up the cause of conservation to keep our hunting heritage alive, if not strong.

The Nomad is written by Mark Herwig, Editor of the Pheasants Forever Journal and Quail Forever Journal. Email Mark at mherwig@pheasantsforever.org.

What Upland Hunters Should Know About Duck Stamps

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

 The 2012-2013 Federal Duck Stamp.

The 2012-2013 Federal Duck Stamp is on sale now. Officially known as the Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, “Duck Stamps” (as they are most commonly called) are a vital tool for wetland and upland conservation.

Originally created in 1934, Ninety-eight cents out of every dollar generated by the sales of Federal Duck Stamps goes directly to purchase or lease habitat for protection in the National Wildlife Refuge System. More than $671 million has been raised for habitat conservation by the nationwide sales of Federal Duck Stamps.

In additional to large National Wildlife Refuges, Duck Stamps are the primary funding source for the purchase of smaller natural wetlands and uplands, known as Waterfowl Production Areas (WPAs). There are over 26,000 WPAs in the U.S. located mostly in the Prairie Pothole Regions – also known as “Pheasant Country” – of the Dakotas, Montana, Minnesota, Michigan, Nebraska, Iowa, and Wisconsin.  North Dakota alone accounts for 39 percent of WPAs in the U.S. Wetlands on these WPAs, particularly the cattails that encircle them, provide excellent winter cover for pheasants, and the grassland habitat that surrounds WPA wetlands can provide nesting and brood cover for ringnecks. That pheasant production can mean excellent pheasant hunting opportunities, as WPAs are open to public hunting.

While ducks migrate and pheasants do not, the two fowl have related habitat needs that are simultaneously addressed with Duck Stamp habitat protection. Like pheasants, a duck’s life journey begins in a grassland. “Duck Stamp dollars spent in the Prairie Pothole Region address the most critical time for both ducks and pheasants, the nesting season. And good nesting cover for ducks is good nesting cover for pheasants,” says Matt Morlock, a Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Biologist in eastern South Dakota.

Pheasants Forever also supported the recent expansion of hunting opportunities on 10 National Wildlife Refuges last year, a list which included five refuges funded in part by Federal Duck Stamps.  “There’s no question we’ve seen a decline in hunting numbers,” said Dave Nomsen, Vice President of Government Affairs for Pheasants Forever. “And we need to get kids outdoors and connected with nature. Hunting can play a role in that effort and it should. The refuge system is a great opportunity.”

Federal Duck Stamps can be purchased at U.S. Postal Service locations nationwide (as well as through the Postal Service’s online catalogue), sporting goods stores and online at online at www.duckstamp.com.

This year’s Federal Duck Stamp image, of a single wood duck, is by Joseph Hautman of Plymouth, Minnesota.  Hunters over the age of 16 must purchase one if they want to hunt migratory waterfowl (which nearly half of Pheasants Forever members already do), but even if you don’t hunt ducks or geese, consider purchasing a stamp (or two – you can purchase as many as you like). Dollar for dollar, it is one of the best conservation investments you can make.

Field Notes are compiled by Anthony Hauck Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.org and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.

A Father’s Day Story: Never Tell Mom

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

The relationship between a father and son can best be described as being a complex one. Sons don’t always listen, fathers don’t always “get it” and sometimes moments can be lost between the two. The beauty in all of this is that the young boy still has a chance to grow up, and hopefully, someday, he’ll be reminded of times long ago and finally learn to understand and appreciate all that was done for him. Perhaps all is not lost with today’s youth; maybe they just need a chance to grow.

A father’s gift of introducing a son or daughter to the great outdoors is perhaps the greatest gift of all.

Moving at a young age from Minnesota to the Emerald City of the Pacific Northwest, I was upset about leaving my friends. My father was scared about losing his identity.  Leaving behind hardwoods, prairies and potholes for saltwater and espresso wasn’t his decision to make, but he put up with it and made due until we were able to return to the place we once again call home.  One of the ways he “made due” was not giving up on teaching his sons and daughter the craft and beauty of hunting, even if that meant hemorrhaging money and free time in a terrain we weren’t accustomed to.

I didn’t appreciate this at the time. But after reading a duck hunting story he recently shared with me, it brought back memories of events that didn’t matter as much when they took place as they do now. As they say, better late than never.

Remember the white knuckle boat trip to one of those duck blinds in the dark? Tiny 10 foot flat bottom brought from MN with old heavy 5.5 hp on back… 1 adult, 2 children, 1 dog, 2 bags of decoys and all the crap a duck hunter can lug around. In first week of January breaking ice (yes season went to 2nd week of January in WA) and water literally 1-2 inches below the outside of the gunwales. I was freaked out that if either of you kids moved we would take on water.  It was all I could do to remain brave and not yell or overreact if one of you kids twitched a finger. Yes we all wore life jackets and always do.  Never tell mom.

We put in some river that flowed from the Cascades towards Puget Sound. Now remember, I’m a flatlander and haven’t quite figured out this state and always wondered why they give you a book of tide tables when you buy your license. We were cruising around looking for a place to come back to hunt when your brother spotted some black lab swimming in the water. Thought that was odd because there were no boats, decoys or obvious blinds in the nearby weeds. We got closer and it started looking weird. Got really close and it dove under. It was a flippin seal and we were in the freakin ocean in a 10 foot boat with 5.5 hp.  I was dumbfounded… I literally stopped the boat and asked myself what the heck I was doing. We had boated right down the river over the flooded tidal flats right into the Pacific Ocean albeit Puget Sound. Had no clue…That’s what scouting is all about.  At least it wasn’t a Killer Whale…

After that we found a place off the main river channel and set up the boat. The tidal book was correct and we got there as the tide was going out… but the tide kept going out…and out… and eventually we were literally sitting on an 8×8 mini island of grass and dirt. We were surrounded by air. The water was gone and the decoys were sitting in the mud 8 feet BELOW the bottom of the boat.  Ok, now I was worried. Flatlander Dad had never experienced anything like that.  No way could we go anywhere. We were literally stranded.  Looked at the tidal book and saw when the high tide would be… 12 hours later (duh!). That was an adventure. Now you know why I bring everything but the kitchen sink with me…It’s an ingrained survival mentality after that prolonged excursion. By the way, we didn’t shoot anything either. Although I do remember a seal swimming around the decoys…. Never tell mom.

Don’t worry pops, your secret’s safe with me.

The Over/Under blog is written by Andrew Vavra, Pheasants Forever’s Marketing Specialist.

Duck TO DOs for 2010

Monday, April 19th, 2010

My Pheasants Forever colleague, Jared Wiklund, just wrote about prepping for the 2010 pheasant hunting season here at www.PheasantsForever.org. Since he’s got the roosters covered, I’m going to focus on prep for the 2010 waterfowl season.

I’ll use this blog space to create my TO DO list of spring/summer projects, which will accomplish two things. One, I’m on record, therefore making me accountable for actually getting them done; and two, I’ll venture to guess many of you have the same projects in limbo, so my list is as good as yours. Here we go:

Duck Boat/Blind. A boat has never been part of my waterfowling arsenal, but it seems like it’s high time. While me and Pheasants Forever colleague Andrew Vavra plugged a few of the vessel’s holes, we need to finish sanding and painting, and then add accessories (decoys, motor, seat cushions, etc.). I’m also conjuring up the idea of adding a blind to it…

Jerk Cord. I’ve sat through enough blue bird duck hunting days to last a lifetime, but they happen. Ask enough waterfowl experts, and they’ll tell you that movement is more important than calling any day, particularly when you’re set up on the Dead Sea. Rigging up a few diver and puddler dekes, respectively, on a jerk string, seems like a fairly easy summer evening project.

Deke Maintenance. All my decoys need to be washed up, and I’ve got at least a dozen ringneck decoys quacking for a paint job. A few mallard decoys are going to get sanded down and completely repainted. And have you had it with untangling decoy lines? I have, so I’ll be Texas Rigging all my decoys.

Like harvesting a rooster over your dog, veteran waterfowlers will tell you there's nothing like taking a big drake over a personally hand crafted decoy.

Carved Gunning Decoys. Andrew and I attended the Roseville Minnesota Ducks Unlimited 25th Anniversary banquet in Vadnais Heights last month and sat next to a fellow named John Perron. His stories of carving his own decoys and hunting over them whet our appetites to do the same (pictured is “Big Red,” his Redhead hand carved floater used on the Texas flats in January that aided in the harvest of a few nice “Red Bulls”). At the Northwest Sports Show, we visited the DU room and picked the brain of Saint Paul duck carver Dennis Finden. Both John and Denny said there’s nothing like dropping ducks over your own handmade blocks. With advice from both of these two lifelong waterfowlers, Andrew and I feel we have what it takes to get going on our own ‘working’ decoys. To avoid unreasonable expectations, I’ve set out for us to finish 2 bluebills each before autumn. We’ll keep you updated on our progress.

New Gun. I recently wrote a lovey dovey piece about the Remington 870, which you can find here at the PF Website this week, because I’ve been in a decade-long relationship with my Wingmaster edition. That said, I like new guns, and have longed to add a synthetic camouflage piece to my collection. Because of the reliability I’ve experienced so far with Remington, I’m leaning toward the classic repeating Remington 1187 or the new pump action model 887. But I’m open to suggestions, so if any readers have any thoughts, put ‘em in the comments below.

Seems like a long enough list for starters. What am I missing?