Thursday, 24 November 2011
See Ya! Adios! Sayonara!
I watched the final flights of birds -- waves upon waves of snow geese, Canada’s and mallards -- depart North Dakota on Saturday with the same sort of sadness I always do. But I also recognized that while we were blessed by a long, productive season, it is now someone else’s chance to enjoy the birds.
The duck season here lived up to expectations (at least for me anyway). We had remarkable duck numbers early. My favorite marsh was jammed-packed with birds. And the teal. Oh my! The teal…
I enjoyed some of the best blue-wing shooting I have ever enjoyed. Strong breeding numbers, coupled with the appearance of great production and favorable habitat conditions meant we had blue wings far longer and in greater abundance than I can remember. There were days that were simply staggering with flights of teal in untold numbers. I have never gunned teal in Nicaragua or Mexico, but I can only imagine our hunts here rivaled those more exotic locales. While I could have easily filled straps with shabby mallards and pintail, I chose the fat, juicy teal I would relish as much at the table as the marsh.
Once the blue-wings finally departed in mid-October, green-wings and a fresh blush of mallards and pintails immediately greeted us. The shooting got a little more serious. I was consistently collecting bags of green-wings, greenheads and sprig (Yea, Paul Wait I did kill one gadwall too….). To say the pintail numbers were good would be an understatement of epic proportions. On some days the sprig numbers overshadowed the mallards (and we had lot’s of mallards!). That is a remarkable feat here in mallard country. My last hunts were beautiful; good friends, sunny skies, southerly winds, beautiful decoying birds and heavy straps.
But as they say all good things must come to an end. Saturday was a brutally cold seven degrees with blustery northeast winds and spits of snow. It was a fully appropriate time for ducks and geese to flee to warmer climes.
To sit and behold the cleaning out of the Prairies is an amazing sight, with endless skeins of birds from horizon to horizon. Some of those birds probably only hopped a couple hundred miles while others likely took advantage of strong tail winds to coast towards their winter homes.
I hate seeing the birds go. In North Dakota we are lucky to have lots of time with the birds. With the early arrivals in March, through the breeding season, molt and our hunting season, we get far more time to enjoy the birds than most folks
So to all of you south of us, I hope the birds that winged off the Prairies last week are en route to you and that you can have a great season too. I look forward to hearing how the season goes elsewhere… and I also look forward to when the ducks come back home next spring!