When the DNR set a 60-day waterfowl season that included two days in December for the northern zone (Upper Peninsula) this year, my hunting partner and I wondered if we’d be able to take advantage of it.
He had his doubts, thinking that we’d be froze out, but the way the fall had been progressing, I was fairly certain we would be able to hunt.
I look forward to Thanksgiving weekend duck hunts every year, because that’s usually when Canadian mallards will finally start to filter into northern Michigan. So, with a Thanksgiving weekend hunt backed the next weekend by a two-day December hunt ending the season this year, I was quite excited at the prospects.
On Friday, Dec. 1, I took a 90-minute tour of a place we were interested in hunting the next day. I saw very few ducks, but enough to pique my interest.
The following morning we started out in a corner of the bay where I’d seen the most birds. By 9:30 a.m., not having fired a shot, we took another long cruise and found fewer ducks than I had seen the day before, so we pulled the boat and headed to another spot.
During that evening hunt, we found more mallards and had several chances, although we only connected on one duck. The birds were not interested in our decoys, so we only had passing shots at a few low-flyers.
On Sunday, Dec. 3, the last day of the season, we set up before daylight in a place that had been fairly good to us all season, but with little ice to keep the birds from flooded timber and potholes, we were doing more bird watching than duck shooting. I shot one mallard that flew well behind us in the woods before falling stone dead in some thick stuff. I was wishing for my old retriever when I went after the bird, but fortunately I had marked it well and it took me just under 30 minutes to find it.
Back at the boat, my partner reported few sightings other than bald eagles, so we moved again. Since this was the last day of the season, we planned to stay until the end of it, no matter what. We found a little island in the middle of a bay where a fair number of mallards were hanging out.
We set up, had a sandwich, and then struggled to stay awake in the warm sunshine. Eagles seemed to be everywhere, and they were pushing a few ducks around but not into our decoys. I was wishing we were fishing, or maybe home putting the duck boat away, but I held on because I knew my partner, a newer duck hunter, wanted to stick it out.
About 90 minutes before shooting hours ended, our patience was rewarded. The sky was suddenly filled with ducks, mostly mallards with a few black ducks. We had plenty of shooting and ended up with five mallards and one black. My partner was ecstatic, and I’ll admit to being a little geeked, too. It was a great way to end the season.
Over a week later, he’s still talking about it and I’m still thinking about it. I suppose that’s exactly what a duck hunter wants to hold him until the next opening day.