Duck hunting becomes bird-watching with guns
More than a few years ago, a friend noted that our duck hunts might best be described as “bird-watching with guns” since we often observed many species of birds, including ducks, but didn’t shoot many of them.
Over the past couple of years, the bird-watching has taken center stage over the duck shooting. These warm autumns have delayed migration of some species of ducks, as well as many other species of birds that move through our neck of the woods every year.
During our annual duck camp this year, my brother Gerry and I noted more than three dozen species of birds, including the ducks we were shooting. We saw 12 species of ducks, and shot eight of them, but spent most of our time watching hawks, eagles, grebes, tundra swans and non-bird species such as river otters and muskrats.
We were surprised to see a kingfisher, dozens or American robins, a few turkey buzzards and several double-breasted cormorants, all of which have usually moved out of the Upper Peninsula by mid-October. This was Halloween.
Some of the usual migrants that we observed were Bonaparte’s gulls and rough-legged hawks, birds that we see around here only during the fall migration. The large rough-leggeds were just as good as the eagles in getting ducks to move around. Bald eagles have become our steady hunting partners in recent years. When they go through a low cruise around the marsh, everything in their paths gets up and away.
In the 41⁄2 days that he was here, my brother and I spent 48 hours in the 14-ft. duck boat. It helps to spend the hours enjoying the sight of other birds migrating while you’re waiting for those select few that you want to invite home to dinner.