Mid Season Mallards and a Pretty Lab
Roca, age 2 plus a few months, has seen precious few birds in her short life. This year to date we found one mallard hen that we were able to bring home with us. I was pretty disgusted. So I planned another mid season outing by myself.
She is a great partner and loves being out. She is the first dog I've had in 32 years that really watches the sky for birds. If her ears cock, she sees feathers. Note that a guy has to verify before he shoots, cause she locks on whether it is a gray jay, eagle, raven, mergy, or shootable duck. I guess a guy can't fault the dog. Her job is to watch, mine is to pay attention and shoot straight at legal quarry.
Mid Season continued
We got out to the island pretty late in the evening. I'd guess we had less than 1 hour of legal shooting. When we got there a few mallards jumped out, so we hustled to get decoys set and we hid in the grass.
A few flights of ducks were seen and I responded with my call. Surprising enough the ducks did not fall from the sky in a fit of laughter at my attempts to talk the talk. But some did come in to check us out, and not all left.
Mid Season Day 2
We shut down as the last light faded from the sky and headed back out. I had decided to make this a camping trip, the first for the 2 of us together so had brought gear to spend the night. Included in the gear was my small 15 gallon wood stove. That was a nice addition.
I fixed us both something warm for dinner, and made our beds. I brought her thick padded dog bed to get her off of the ground. As I did not have a sleeping blanket for her my plan was to leave her with the neoprene vest on, but she was still damp inside of it. Instead I told her to go to bed, and wrapped her up in my float coat. Smart dog, she pretty much hunkered in for the night.
The next morning we were up in the dark and she got a warm breakfast. I ate a banana, bagel, and drank some cold gatorade and we headed back to the decoys. A few mallards fell to the gun before noon. She only missed one and that one landed 3' from her head as she marked the rest of the retreating flock. Oh well, can't get em all.
Mid season day 2 continued
Things got way too slow in the middle of the day, so we pulled up stakes. We headed back to camp, ate lunch, and packed up. By early afternoon we were headed further out to find out where the birds were sitting.
Sure enough I found some nice groups that got up in front of us. When I turned around 15 minutes later a lot of them had already landed back in their parking spots, so they jumped again. I chose a fairly non-descript stretch of bank flanked by black spruce to hunt and then drove another couple hundred yards to park the boat. The boat was not hidden by any stretch of the imagination, but it was upwind and just around a slight corner. I figured the ducks would be coming in from my right, which was downwind.
I set up a small group of decoys just in front of me, tight to the shore. The other group I placed upwind to my left about 30 yards, and set the Mojo on the outer edge of them. My thought was that I'd have a place for ducks to land behind the Mojo and close to the decoys in front.
Mid season day 2 cont.
It worked! I can't believe it! The wind was blowing fairly hard, 15mph on up to maybe 25mph from left to right. The ducks that ended up working the spread all came in from my right, so most of my shots were right to left, a natural swing for a right handed shooter. Or at least a more natural swing for me.
I hit 5 for 5, 3 singles and a double. Roca handled each retrieve really well. On the double, we lucked out that they were close together and the furthest one away was maybe 35 yards. She actually picked up the far one first as it was still flapping a bit, and on the way back in nosed the second so she knew there was yet another to pick up.
Then trouble started. I hit a bird just as it was setting in and it dumped hard, she marked it, and it stopped moving, broken wing stuck up in the air like a sail. I assumed it was dead as I did not see a twitch. The wind and current took it quickly downriver. I sent her and she followed that broken wing like it was a beacon angling away and down to the other side, about 125 yards. When she got there it dove. She spun trying to figure it out, and the chase was on. The mallard was in really shallow water and finally exited into the grass with her in hot pursuit. She finally nailed it. Now she had to recross the river, against the current and waves, while the wind blew spray over her head with every stroke. I was so proud of her when she hit my side. I put the gun down and ran to her. WOW! What a dog. What a retrieve. This one goes in the history book for me.
A bit later trouble again. I was so hunkered down, and focused downriver, that I did not see mallards come in low from straight away and land in the decoys. I kept hearing a drake quack, and I'd respond quietly with a single hen note. Finally I peaked up over the hedge and there were 20 odd mallards in the decoys. Up they jumped, up came the shotgun, down went one bird hard, and then swung on another with no luck. With an empty gun up jumps bird one to fly to the other side and land on the frozen ground/grass.
Off to the boat we go to see what good we can do to track a wounded bird. When we got there I found blood and tracks on a bit of ice/snow and tried to get Roca to nose it and trail. She was more interested in just running until all of a sudden she found the track on her own 15 yards later. She moved forward, nose to ground, tail wagging for 60 yards and when that hen jumped up making a racket it scared the pants off of Roca. She got over that quickly and jumped forward to pin the hen and bring it to hand. WHOOHOO!
Mid Season, the finale
A double, a long swim with hard hunt, and a track, all in one day, all for a young dog with multiple singles thrown in. To add to that she never quit, never stopped looking, and seemed to really enjoy the day. As a friend said, "epic, simply epic".
And when you are out, you never know what else you'll see beside birds. I never get tired of seeing moose.
I can not remember the last time I brought home a full bag of mallards. I did have chances at teal, goldeneye, and scaup, but held off for the big puddlers.
Great write up good to see some stories of success on here, been a lot of stories with real empty straps. Thanks for taking the time to take pics and post them with a great story.