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Thread: Minto Opener Report

  1. #1
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    Default Minto Opener Report

    Due to some things that came up this year I was not sure I was going to make it out hunting. As time wore on, it looked like I'd make it, but had no real plans in part due to the time frame to be able to make decisions. My buddy invited me to go to Minto for the opener w/ another guy, and when I hesitated (they both being popo) said they'd be happy to handcuff me and drag me out. My choice. Figured w/ my hands cuffed behind my back I couldn't even drink a beer, so decided going "voluntarily" made the most sense.
    Ended up taking my boat w/ gear along with his. The trip over Murphy Dome is rough, but a guy takes his time no real issues. Water on the Chat was good, no exposed rocks, and I happened to miss the rest of them. Nice trip downriver all in all and felt great to be on the water.
    Got to camp, which by my standards is plush, got some work done, had a great meal of crane that I had left over from last year, and got into bed early for a 4:30 wake up call. That call came sooner than expected w/ my friends alarm set to quack. Funny guy. Another friend flew in, so that made 4 of us to get ready.
    We set up the dekes, Madam Mojo flapping her wings, geese for security, and a couple of buffle heads off to the side for good measure. The tall grass made it possible to hide without having to build a blind. We were ready 1/2 hour before time opened up the season at 6:01am.
    Early flights made it possible to start shooting almost the second the clock said we were legal. But I sat and watched the 3 other guys shoot for a bit. Too much on my mind to start busting caps at ducks, I instead just enjoyed the moment. There may be nothing quite like watching 3 good guys shooting birds, a dog working, listening to shotguns blasting and birds quacking, and smell the qunpowder burning.
    Finally I got squared up, in came a mallard, the trigger was pulled twice, and I laughed as she fled our airspace. No way. No way was I going to start this opener out shooting like caca. Nope. Not happening. So I bore down, focused, and started hitting a good string of birds.
    Everybody got good shooting in. My immediate partner could not buy a bird though. I swear he could not have hit an ostrich standing next to him. Listening to him just made me smile, then I'd hit another one. I finally told him to keep his head down, swing through the birds, slap the trigger, and have fun. He looked at me with the biggest grin and said he was having the time of his life. Took a while, but he finally started shooting something for Roca to retrieve.
    Last season I wrote a story about a late season hunt w/ Roca, my little yellow lab. She was by my side again, and she was awesome. She made the trip even more successful. We did not lose a bird that dropped within sight. My buddies chessie did great also. Roca is pretty intense, really focuses on incoming birds, and just doesn't seem to have any quit in her. She got to chase a few cripples, and we did some hunting back in the tall grass for some other birds.
    I ended up the morning shooting 8 for 14, not bad for a duffer that only wing shoots a few times a year. All mallards and 2 bull sprig w/ gray horns on their beaks. I did not hunt that night, just chose to relax and look around. Being 2 short on the limit meant nothing.
    Next day, new spot, decoys set, 4th man out so just the 3 of us. Gunning was good from the start, only problem is my and my friend seem to see birds in shape the same way. We did a lot of double killing. Not a bad thing as all of those birds were stone cold dead when they hit the water. Just one of those things as 2 guys swing on the same bird and slap triggers within nano seconds of each other.
    A group of Canada Geese came in low and from the back. I hit one, then swung through again just to be sure. It landed out in the whitefront decoys some 50 yards out. Roca watched that one all the way, and as the goose was fluttering its last on the water, I sent her on her first Canada retrieve. What a missile. That little 60lb girl grabbed that goose like she was an old expert.
    The birds cooperated and we all shot well. I brought back widgeon and mallards in addition to the goose, a total of 8 more birds. Not quite the low shot count, but not sure how to add them up when 2 guys end up shooting the same birds.
    This was a great trip for me. I needed the recoil therapy like you can't imagine. It was just the ticket to help me clear my mind. My buddies took great care of me, which always includes appropriate ribbing, the food was awesome (grilled salmon and peanut tai halibut) and I slept like a baby every night.
    Oh yeah, remember the guy couldn't buy a bird on day 1? He is a jewel thief. I swear to God that man must have rabbits feet in each pocket. 3 banded pinnies on day one. I've never in all my years of hunting even found one banded bird and this dude catches 3!!!! And on day 2 he nails a mallard with some bling. 4 pieces of silver in 2 days. Un flippin believable, and could NOT have happened to a nicer guy.
    It was not part of the opener, but later I made it to my Crane spot w/ a buddy and my 17 year old daughter. Managed to bring 2 of the big birds home.
    A great season to date.
    ARR

  2. #2
    Member PG13's Avatar
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    If I end up your direction can I come play? Lived in North Dakota for years and shot most of the waterfowl but never did connect on crane. How long are they in your backyard?

    Thread hijack... The first goose I sent my little lady on was a wounded juvenile Giant Canada in a fallow field during the North Dakota early season (see pic). She got slapped so hard she would just "tree" them the rest of the trip but wouldn't touch them. She really doesn't like picking them up but I think that's mostly the 1/2 German shorthair in her.

    0823090751a.jpg

    Oh yeah, congrats on an awesome outing.
    Go Big Red!

  3. #3
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    Cranes will be gone soon, and I shoot the one area sparingly. This year I may hit it 3x. I don't like scaring the birds off their routine and do everything I can to get in and out w/ as little fuss as possible. The way I do it is hit and miss and a whole lot of work, but one of those things that is pretty special to me. It took me years to figure them out, and once I did, the payoff has been immense.
    I don't shoot many, but seeing the flights and sheer numbers is pretty cool.
    We did Greater Canadas years back in Central WA. Man oh man those are some monster birds. Had one cripple that I went back and go my big male lab for. Took us a while to track it, but he finally brought it back. That dog just would not take no for an answer.
    I may try to get a few photos posted, but it takes me so long due to being compute inept that it may not happen. We'll see.
    ARR

  4. #4
    Member SkinnyD's Avatar
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    I'll probably be over that way the next two weekends and I can't wait. I think we oughta make time to share a blind one day Mr. River Rat.
    Passing up shots on mergansers since 1992.


  5. #5
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    Great report! Your buddies luck is amazing.

    Now we just need some pics!

    Erich

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    Great story!!! I totally enjoyed it and wished I could have been there with you! Jesse

  7. #7
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    I had a very respectful PM asking me about shooting 8 for 14 and 2 short of the limit. I really appreciated the way the member asked the question. My personal goal is to keep at or under 2 shots per bird. I find that makes me take better shots, have fewer misses, scare fewer birds, and end up w/ fewer cripples. That is solely my own measuring stick or guide that I use. Doesn't always work, but it helps me make good choices.
    The GMU I hunt allows a 10 bird a day limit. I normally don't worry too much about the limit, only pointed out that I had an 8 bird morning.
    Again, the PM I received was very polite and respectful and I do not mind at all clarifying what I wrote.
    Stand by for more bird news. My daughter has agreed to a rainy day soire (sp) into the unknown to look for more birds.
    ARR

  8. #8
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    Well, it's about 12:30am, we are back, the guns are dry and cleaned, and I am ready for bed. GREAT HUNT!
    MY daughter and I spent some time looking for sign, finally figured out a few things, laid out the dekes, cut some brush for a blind, and were ready to go well before birds showed up.
    We got set up in an old brush pile that we added a bit of trim to. About a 1/2 hour later a few mallards traded through, not interested in the call a bit. Oh well, a guy has to try. WX was rainy, cloud cover pretty low, so we hoped the geese would fly early. Saw some other birds off in the distance, and after a bit a group of about 15 geese were spotted heading left to right. I got on the call, and lo and behold they turned and started in. We hunkered down low, held still, a few more quick honks, and they were committed.
    They started bleeding off altitude, wings cupped, chattering amongst themselves and waiting for a reply from me. I gave a few more honks and chuckles and then shut up. They were coming, no sense in warning them. Down they came, wings locked, feet down, prepped to land.
    I had been whispering to my daughter to be ready, she said she was. Roca was buried deep in the pile, but I could see her looking for the birds that were making the noise. It was time. TAKE EM!!! WE stood up, I watched her take aim, swing, slap the trigger, and spotted a bird that was hit. I swung through it, throwing a 1 3/8 oz load of BB its way, and it folded. Swung on the next bird in line and it too dropped at the shot. Later she said she had hit it, and then hit it again. I believe that is exactly what happened.
    2 birds down, in the current, heads up. I shot the close one again, and sent Roca. Kelly was out of the blind looking at her bird which was heading downriver fast. Roca grabbed that first bird, headed back, I ran downriver trying to help her on the angle. She hit shore, I grabbed the bird, and we tore off after bird 2,which was laying dead on the water by that time, but was caught in the current. I got to where I could go no further, told Roca to sit, grabbed a golf ball sized rock, said "mark" and threw it for all I was worth. She spotted the splash and bird, I sent her, and the chase was on.
    She was powering downriver, but the big bird had 70 plus yards on her and laid out pretty flat. Hard for a dog to see in those conditions. But she persevered. 100 yards, 150, 200. BS. Enough. I yelled for sis to come down, watch the dog and the goose, and I raced back to the boat, away from the dog. Imagine an old fat guy, out of shape, wearing chest waders and a rain coat, sucking all of the O2 in the area. I got in the boat and raced back downriver, past sis. "Where is the dog"? I yelled. She pointed right down the channel, I pushed the throttle open. Well over 500 yards out I finally found Roca trying to beat the current. Happy moment I'll tell you. I grabbed her into the boat, and we continued downriver looking for the goose. Yep, there it was, heading downriver at 7mph give or take and I grabbed it into the boat.
    We turned back toward Kelly, went past, double thumbs up. She waved as we headed back to the parking spot and I yelled for her to be ready just in case. Roca should have been spent, but as soon as we touched shore, she raced off, looking for her other partner.
    Back in the blind, heart rate coming down, high fives given and received, a few photos taken and sent immediately to Labman, Kelly's big brother, and we were ready for round 2. The mallards were next. They swung around in back, spun off, came around the front, and headed upriver. Nothing I said scared them (amazingly enough) but I could not convince them to set down w/ us. They landed 80 yards or so upriver, and started swimming down our way. We hid low in the blind, watchiing them come. After a bit they were right out in front, between the floater Canada dekes and the Mojo. Ready? A whispered reply, I gave the word, and up we came, guns blazing as the birds rose off of the water. I dropped the hen I was focused on, and when I looked left, saw another one hitting the water too.
    At 17 she is not a rookie, but my daughter is not very experienced either. She did a great job tonight handling her shotgun, staying safe, and connected with a couple of birds. Roca was a superhero as far as I am concerned. She never quit, never climbed out on the bank, was still working and looking for the bird. And I connected too.
    Those last mallards came in a few miniutes before time ended and by the time retrieves were complete, time had expired. We picked up, and headed downriver, but Kelly had a surprise for me. Out of her backpack she produced a thermos, 2 mugs, and hot chocolate. WOW! We drifted for a whlie sipping sweet hot chocolate w/ marshmallows, enjoying the rain and darkening sky. Perfect. Simply perfect.
    We were soaking wet by the time we got home, shucked the wet gear, and Kelly noticed a text on my phone that was left in the garage. "Should I look at it"? Yes, I said. So she did and found out that some guys were stuck back out on a sandbar, in the dark. I grinned, put my wet clothes back on, grabbed my headlamp, and headed back downriver. It's what we do right? We do not leave people to suffer just because it is not convenient. I found them and loaded them in the boat. Tomorrow is another day, and that boat is so stuck a night won't matter. Those boys are home safe, and it is time to hit the rack.
    ARR

  9. #9

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    Ak Rat,
    Keep the stories coming. I was with you, you daughter and your fine dog all the way. I've had to call my lab off a downstream bird before too, before she went into the log jam. Thanks for sharing.
    Jesse

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