After icy October, bonus November ducks
It was a surreal moment, to be sitting in a half-frozen cattail slough listening to swans honk away and watch wood ducks and teal circle above the small channel of still-open water. It was even weirder when a hen mallard skidded across the ice in front of me, stood up, and quacked her disapproval at the conditions.
Technically, I have duck calls and know how to use them, but I don’t know how to speak duck well enough to commiserate with one, otherwise I would have. Our early snow and Arctic weather pattern in late October created a weird situation where it felt like December even though the calendar said otherwise. In general life, this is a bummer, but the duck hunting can be incredible during this perfect storm of conditions.
Then the weather changed again with 70s across much of Minnesota. In recent days, I’ve seen a lot of mallards and geese, and there’s usually some pretty good duck hunting in the back half of November as long as there’s open water around (and now there’s a ton of it).
That’s what my Lab and I have found lately anyway, and we’ve been getting out whenever we can because the window is closing with more unseasonably cold returning next week. Some years, the standing water we like to hunt will stay open until the end of the season, but in other years it’s all locked up and better for skating than hunting by mid-November. This might be one of those years.
It’s anyone’s call how this one is going to shake out, but if I had to make an educated guess, I’d probably be better off sharpening my blades than casing up the shotgun. That’s the reality of living in the north country, but for now there is still some time to get out and watch the skies at dawn.
Even though the puddle ducks are trickling out, those big, beautiful greenheads are still a real possibility, as are the geese. Small-water hunters such as myself can take solace in that, but like 99-percent of the good hunting, even those heavyweight honkers and mallards will prove fleeting.
Until then, I know one black Lab and one so-so duck hunter that will be tucked into the muddy, half-frozen sloughs as much as possible from here until the true freeze settles in, once and for all.