Below Zero Adventure
As we pulled into the launch, the digital thermometer in my truck read -3F. Oh brother, what were we doing? This was the coldest I had ever attempted to run this motor and boat.
I had spent several days prepping the boat by charging the battery and completing a dry land start just to be sure everything was ok. So far so good.
We launched the boat, and after a bit of crossed finger attempts to start, found the fuel line leaking just a bit to cause a vacuum leak. Out came the tool box and all the fittings were tightened down. With a roar that old "88" started up. Steering check throttle stiff, but check. A quick run up river showed we had a fuel feed issue. Squeezing the bulb kept her running though.
The gear and dogs were tossed in the boat and the warm clothes came on. We both kept looking at the water and knew if for some reason we went in we were going to be in deep trouble. Survival gear check. Quick access to fire starter, check.
Off we went, into the fog. We crept along just on step, making good but conservative time. In and out of the fog we were seeing ducks, both puddlers and divers. We rounded the last bend and 40 or so mallards jumped out of the hole we were going to hunt. Things were looking good.
There would be no quick scramble today. Everything was deliberately and carfully taken out of the boat and decoys were set in place. Last item out was the MOJO. I took the boat up river out of the way and headed back to my partner and the dekes.
I dressed my black lab in his neoprene float coat. He looked like a body builder flexing his mucles in a tight t-shirt. He was cranked! Eyes sparkling, ears cocked, every nerve was twitching. He did not care that he was sitting on snow and had to break ice to do his job.
The guns were loaded and we were ready. The ducks started coming back in. A few here, a few there. The shooting was good, though not fast and furious. I set my shotgun down and picked up a video camera to try and get shots of my partner and his dog. We both ended up getting "cooned" by mallards as we had our hands full of camera gear or were paying more attention to the sun filtering through the trees and fog than at he sky.
Turned out to be a fantastically beutiful blue bird day. The sun shone on us all day and it got warm enough to melt some ice off of the boat. Both dogs did well. His dog made some good short retrieves and behaved himself. My old man made a couple of retrieves across the river, up current, and into the snow laden grass on the other side.
Best bird of the day turned out to be a bull sprig. His bill horns were fully colored, but no "horns" on the side of his head. His tail was long and pointed but did not have the really long pin. I have never shot such a beurtiful pintail in Alaska. The drake mallards were bright and colorful. We shot some suzies that had a lot of winter color and their necks were nutmeg brown.
What a great day to be out. What a wonderful opportunity to shoot birds over a dog that exudes excitement, power, tenacity, and drive and to be with a friend that enjoyed the day as much as I did regardless of the birds we did not shoot, or the birds we missed.
You guys definitely have dedication and love for the sport! Sounds like you had a great hunt, all four of you. Those memories will be with you forever, that is part of what makes hunting such a great sport.
Good luck on your Michigan hunt.
The plan is to be out there again this weekend. I did learn a few things about the boat and gear last weekend. My boat is stable, so not too concerned about swamping, but sure keep it in mind. I forgot my road flares for a quick fire starter. You can bet they'll be aboard the next trip.
If we spend the night, I have to figure something out to help my Lab keep warm. I love him, but he is not getting his wet feet in my sleeping bag.
AK, what kinda boat do have? don't think I've ever been out in anything that cold duck huntin, floated a few rivers in a canoe with some ice at the banks in Dec. for ducks but only at about 25 degrees and most thought I was nuts then HAHAHA.
barrowdave, the temp is coming down in the UP was 22 degs there this morning and about 36 down here hope both of you have good hunts when you come back.
I was using a 20' Quachita, a flat bottom skiff with an 88hp OMC. I have a small windshield but it does not do much in the way of protection. The fog on the river made it even colder.
Several other boats that were following us never made it. One guy was trying to launch, but his boat was stuck to the trailer so hard they could not break it free. We left so don't know if that was their only problem or not.
Somedays it is nice to not have competition, but then again a few hunters can sometimes keep the birds moving.
Those temps sound better. I was talking to a real estate saleslady yesterday from Ontonagon. She said from Sept. 15 - Oct. 15 they had 15 inches of rain. Her next statement was that if it kept raining, all of her listings could be considered "waterfront property".
Thanks for the good wishes, you have a great and safe hunt this year also. Two weeks from tonight I will be having dinner at the Napoleon Cafe with they guys.
I've been hunting as well. Where I hunt, right now, there are chunks of tidal ice as big as cars. So the use of a boat is out. I'm still able to get there by foot though. The tidal channels are getting more jammed up with ice more and more each time the tide comes in. But there are large enough open pockets of water for the ducks to be on. There has been good numbers but each day it seems just a few ducks less. There are still lots of birds you just have to be savy on getting to them and setting up to bring them in.
This is the time for us "hard core quack attackers" .
So be safe, and lets "take 'em" !!!!!!
We were lucky, there is not much ice to have to get through or work the dogs through. Some sheet ice comes down river and occasionally moves the decoys, but it is shallow enough to run over, rescue the deke, and reset it.
My partner is going this weekend, so we will double up on the mojo mallards and also should have a few vibrators in the spread.
That old dog of mine looked good with ice on his whiskers. It sure did not slow him down though. I did get in a bit of training with him. He got to the point that he is steady as long as I miss, but goes when he sees a duck hit. He does not even wait for the splash. I tied him off to a tree with parachute cord and after a bit he forgot about it. My buddy was standing with me when a drake came in close. I was telling him to take the bird, the dog's ears picked up, eyes on the bird, first shot a miss (real close) and the second shot took the bird at about 12 yards. The old gray beard just couldn't take it. He launched off the bank and about the time he hit the grass shelf in front of us he also hit the end of the rope. He could have won a gold medal in gymnastics. He finally got to his feet, I looked at him, and pointed back to his spot by the tree. This could have been the first time ever I did not get into it with a dog. Pretty much I just let the rope do the work and laughed at him. He sure cooled his jets after that and acted much more like a gentleman than a rogue. It was a great natural training moment. Later I hunted a small island without a check cord and he was good to go.
I forgot to tell you guys that besides the bull sprig I shot, I jumped 2 teal also. Seems pretty late for them around here. I was hoping for a drake buffle head, but did not see any.
You hunting on the Tanana or the Chena if you don't mind me asking?
We were back at it today. Did not get out till late afternoon as my partner had to work and my son was out late celebrating. I get to brag on him a bit. He swims for West Valley, and the boys team won Regionals again. That is 4 years running. As a Senior, it was his last local meet, and he and the team did it in style. He swam an awesome anchor in the 200 medley relay (1st), swam an all time best in the 100FR (2nd), swam a best in the 200FR and took 4th just .07 out of second and he swam 3rd man on the 200 FR Relay (1st).
I let him sleep in and had the dog wake him up about 11am. We were packed and out of the house in 45 minutes, an all time record. The ducks were slow today, but given we did not get set up till late afternoon it was no surprise. We had some trickle in here and there and ended up with 2 suzies and 4 diamond back greenies. Almost got a Mergy, but glad I was slow on the trigger. He came in behind me and put the surprise to me. He would have made awful eating.
I shot awful. I mean really awful. Sure glad I don't have any ducks to clean, even the ones he did not shoot at. We forgot the video camera, so this hunt just has to stay in the memory bank. What an afternoon. A son that loves to hunt, a dog that loves to work, a few ducks that cooperated, and hot chocolate to boot. And if the wx continues we may do this one more time. Don't know how I am going to break it to the wife though.