A late season duck hunt on the Mississippi River
By Ben Gruber
Time really got away from me this fall, and with the end of our 60-day duck season approaching with the next sunset, it was time to make a trip to the Mississippi River. Luckily for me, I have a good friend who lives in the area, and one phone call had a trip lined up. Josh is a die-hard duck hunter with a great duck dog and all the right gear, and it is good to have friends with good gear.
The year’s first snowfall was coming down pretty thick when we pulled the boat out of his garage in Pepin and headed for the boat landing. Despite the weather and being at the boat landing two hours before light, we were far from the first ones there.
The ride out to our spot was slow with the snow coming down thick enough to make our lights useless. We found a spot that allowed us to face into the wind and began setting up three dozen decoys while Fletcher, our duck retriever for the day, watched from shore.
Conditions were far from ideal as earlier high waters had washed away much of the cover and vegetation we normally hunted. Still, we had high expectations that the foul weather would benefit us and persuade passing ducks to join our decoys for some feed and rest.
The ducks had other ideas apparently. Much to Fletcher’s disappointment, I missed the first two ducks to come by. There was a group of hunters pretty close to us that had a tendency to fire warning shots at birds well before they got in range, which caused more than a few ducks to choose a different area to rest.
Fletcher did get to retrieve a beautiful drake mallard soon though. He landed in the middle of our decoys and liked it there so much he refused to fly away when we stood up. Eventually we persuaded him to fly, Josh made a nice shot, and Fletcher questioned our sanity when he had to swim in the cold water to retrieve the duck.
We picked up shortly after that. Both of us were soaked to the bone and cold, and Fletcher looked none too warm either. After another 40 minutes of tripping on muskrat holes in the waist-deep water, we were warmed right back up though.
I was glad to get out, and I reaffirmed my love for the Mississippi River Valley. Endless beauty and bountiful outdoor opportunities there make it a true sportsman’s paradise. I also reaffirmed my need to practice with my new shotgun. Time gets away from us all.
The mercury is dropping as I write. Get those tip-ups ready. We will be ice fishing soon.
Ben Gruber can be reached at [email protected].