'Men of October' out on lakes duck hunting
NICOLLET -- Gathered in the cabin that my father and his brothers built, on the land my grandfather and great grandfather have owned, we sat Sept. 29 in anticipation of the next day. A 9 a.m. reveille would mark the opening of the 2006 waterfowl ...
NICOLLET -- Gathered in the cabin that my father and his brothers built, on the land my grandfather and great grandfather have owned, we sat Sept. 29 in anticipation of the next day. A 9 a.m. reveille would mark the opening of the 2006 waterfowl season -- a 60-day marathon of early mornings, push polling, decoy setting and hopefully a shot or two.
On the shores of the historic Swan Lake our cabin sits. A far cry from a mansion, the shack has provided more than one generation of escape from the mundane life in the working world.
An escape we were seeking once again on this night.
Together with my father Mike, friend Dave, Uncle Brian and his 16-year-old son, Josh, we bagged up the decoys, loaded the boats and packed up the trucks. With the Minnesota Twins game blaring in the background, we shared stories and guesses about the next day's hunt.
With the lake being lowered to manage a pesky carp infestation, space on the lake would be limited for hunting. Access to the lake was limited as well. The area around our dock that once held water now resembled a dry lot filled with grass. Only the southern landing on the lake held enough water to squeeze a duck boat through.
Expecting a flood of hunters at the one access, we lugged our gear to the access at 10:30 p.m. to ensure our preferred blind. Pushing slowly across the lake, our fleet of five boats cruised silently through the murky marsh.
Sleep was limited to what could be found lying in the bottom of the boat. And as the morning sun shed first light across the lake, many hunters were still scrambling from the access to find a suitable hunting location.
With the decoys set, we hid ourselves in a raft of cattails and waited for the opening shots to ring out. Sure enough, 10 minutes before 9 a.m. shots could be heard across the lake. Flocks of teal zipped around our decoys, and as if to taunt our trigger fingers a flock of mallards cupped their wings and glided into the decoys.
As 9 o'clock rolled in a flock of geese roared out of a bay on the lake, scared up by the volley of shots. The sky became a maze of waterfowl flying every which direction. We hunkered in our blinds and spotted the birds as they flew overhead.
"Divers over there," someone would say, "Redheads" another replied. We took our shots on the birds that flew within range of our arsenal, closing in on the 12 mark only an hour into the shoot. Frustrated with my own shooting, it was a lone drake wood duck that brought my confidence back. As it veered over the decoys, I caught it in an upswing and folded it in one shot.
We took our time shooting the rest of the day, adding another five birds to the total before calling it a day in the early afternoon.
Back at the cabin we cleaned our day's take and grilled up the teal for a mid-evening snack. The hunt had exceeded expectations, despite the heat of the day and low water conditions across much of the state.
The season was off to a good start. And although many of the birds seen Saturday weren't seen again Sunday, we knew they would show up again in the later days of October. Mallards will parachute from the heavens on cupped wings, canvasbacks will jet low over the decoy spread and there we will be waiting with eager eyes and steadfast aim.
The men of October will prevail.