Since I was a little boy, too small to see over the top of the duck blind I have truly loved few things more then duck hunting. The entire process of it all comes as a joy to me and the beauty of ducks never gets old. There is so much work that goes into a success where hunting waterfowl is concerned. Work, that few can truly appreciate unless they experience it on a frequent basis. For many, duck hunting begins on the opening day of the season. For us however, duck season begins they day after the season closes. Our success for ourselves and for our clients depends on our love of the sport, and our dedication to making it what it needs to be.
As we travel around filming for WildLifers and Sportsman Channel and The Next Destination and Carbon TV meet many outfitters along this long and often tiresome season. Sadly many so called outfitters are nothing more then people trying to make a buck without giving the hunters their money’s worth. As outfitters ourselves we can spot these things in a second and it is sad that it happens. This season was truly an exception for us because we never once hunted with anyone that didn’t give us a remarkable experience. This cannot be appreciated enough and we’d like to spend a bit of time thanking these outfitters for a job well done.
First we went to Wisconsin in pursuit of canvasbacks. We knew nothing about this outfitter and actually booked it off of a picture on Instagram. Yes, we got lucky. Our hunt was the Jake Kaprelian and Epic Guide Service. Jake put us in the right place to get what we were after and is a super nice guy. These guys worked their butts off to ensure that all went as planned and I completed a 35 year quest to take a canvasback. To have my dog Molly bring that first canvasback to me just made it all that much better. If you have followed me at all you know my love for retrievers is huge and my love for Molly is bordering insanity. If you want to do something different give Jake and Epic Guide Service a call or have a look at them on Facebook.
Our second hunt was in Oklahoma with Goose Reapers Guided Outdoors. Again, we didn’t know much about them but they went above and beyond our expectations. When we arrived and met our guides, Grant and Cade we were naturally expecting the worst. On the first morning the guides set up a blind on a dam between two ponds. It was so foggy our visibility was less then 100 yards and it was completely still. Anyone that hunts ducks knows this is not good but we still absolutely crushed the birds. They came in pairs and small groups until we got our limit, which only took slightly more then an hour. The guides were funny and great to hunt with. Things were looking up. On our second morning we went to a marshy area with a large body of water in front of us. Cade and Grant had set the blind up on the end of the lake so that the water acted as a funnel for the ducks. It worked perfectly because before we really got started we had limited out again. As a bonus we killed a canvasback, which is my favorite species. Morning three was simply insane. We went to small stock pond and got set up in some fallen trees along the edge. Before we could see we were hearing the swish of wings over our head. As the light began to make things visible it was apparent that there were hundreds if not thousands of ducks wanting into this hole. I didn’t think shooting time would ever arrive. While we sat waiting on legal shooting time, Molly, my retriever was just looking this way and then that way watching flight after flight of ducks. These birds would circle, land in our decoys only to be scared off by more ducks doing the same thing. Finally Cade said lets go and the shooting commenced. In less then ten minutes we had seventeen ducks of which eight were different species. Mallards, bluebills, pintail, gadwalls, green wing teal, blue wing teal, ringnecks, and a woodduck. After twenty more minutes we were done wondering where we were going to take our picture. Lets just say you are with the right outfitter when its 18 degrees and you can’t touch your gun barrel without burning the hell out of your hand. I wouldn’t hesitate one bit to encourage people to book their hunt with Goose Reapers. They know what they are doing and they put in the work for success day in and dayout. We had two shot but successful goose hunts while with that as well. The goose hunts weren’t even on our to do list but they put it together and it worked well. As of my last research on their social media they had surpassed 5000 birds. By all means save yourself the trouble and call Shelby Anderson and book your hunt.
Goose Reapers Guided Outdoors – 580-475-8898
Of course we took our annual trip to Nebraska to hunt mallard. This hunt is with friends and they ask that we not discuss who they are and we respect that completely. Words cannot describe how blessed we are to call these generous and wonderful people our friends. Each and every year they call and invite us to come hunt mallards and spring turkey on their gorgeous property. I feel just awful accepting their invitation but no so awful that I turn it down. Over the past forty years I have seen some remarkable things in the duck blinds. But, nothing has ever and most likely ever will compare to the hunt we have annually in Nebraska. On our first morning we set up along a slough that runs through the middle of a cut cornfield. The numbers of mallards in this area is indescribable and before daylight they were whistling through the air above us. I always enjoy this time of the morning as I get to watch hundreds of years of DNA turn Molly from a shy standoffish dog into a machine. When I take my seat in the blind she moves to my left side and sits beside me. Her ears perk up and her tail begins to wag as her eyes move skyward. Molly knows what’s about to happen and she is far more excited then all of us collectively. Then without fail light becomes good enough that we can see but it is not yet shooting time. Inevitably a duck will land in the decoys and I always get a kick out of Molly’s reaction. As soon as the duck splashes into the decoys she stares and her body becomes stiff as a board. A few seconds later she turns and looks at me and I swear I can almost hear her say,” Hey man, do you see that duck, its right there, are you going to shoot it, what the hell is wrong with you guys there’s a duck in the decoys, SHOOT IT.” For four seasons I have looked at her each morning and whispered, “ It’s not quite time yet momma.” Again I swear I hear her say,” Damn.” We were done within an hour on the first morning. On morning two we set up in a dry field along a fencerow. Molly and Mick were in place and as always ready. As always that one duck landed before shooting hours and Molly looked at us like we’d lost our minds for not shooting. If you’ve never hunted mallards over a dry field you really should. Flock after flock of birds circled and then committed to the decoys. We did our best to only shoot drake but on one flock I completely messed up our “all green” photo. The hard time given to each other in the duck blind is priceless when one of us shoots a hen; this time it was my turn to catch hell. We hung our limit on the barbed wire for a photograph and I think this image is one that I like more then most of taken from our hunts. Morning three would be our last morning and also the best. We hunted a slough surrounded by trees and it was eight degrees. A strong cold front pushed through the night before and although we had clear skies there was ample snow on the ground and ice everywhere. That morning when Dustin and I were opening the trailer to get our gear we couldn’t get the lock to turn as it was frozen. Being true rednecks, Dustin and I came up with a brilliant solution, we wrapped the padlock with paper towel and set fire to it. When the paper towel finished burning off we turned the key and unlocked the trailer. Genius, I know!! It would be impossible for me to truly explain the numbers of mallards in this area. Suffice it to say that there were so many ducks we didn’t all shoot at the same time. We made a deal to shoot no hens, and take turns. Doing it this way we had a five-man limit with bonus widgeon in forty-five minutes. We also managed to shoot all drakes and got a fantastic picture of our hunt. The footage for WildLifers TV will be epic without question. Watching the dogs work in such harsh condition in another remarkable part of this hunt. When I took Molly’s vest off it was frozen solid, I actually stood it up on end and took a picture of it. As always this hunt is unexplainable but it is the best duck hunt I’ve ever seen each and every year.
Our hunts at Mellon Creek Outfitters were great as well and we can say with honesty that 99% of our days hunted we limited out. The dog work, sunrises, decoying birds, and friendship rekindled and made are priceless. May duck hunting always be great for us all and may we never forget that God has blessed us with such amazing opportunity.