A Storm of Mallards

A Storm of Mallards

Plunging temperatures sent greenheads scrambling for open water.

Waterfowl hunters are different. We relish storms, snow, nasty weather and plummeting temperatures. While most people seek the comfort of a warm fire and a good book, dyed-in-the-wool wildfowlers yearn to be outside on such days.


//


An old wildfowler once told me, "Give me a 10 to 15 knot northwest wind spitting snow and blasting the skin off my face, and I'll show you great duck hunting."


The day dawned clear and brisk -- 15 degrees -- following two inches of fresh snow in the night. Ponds had frozen and rivers were full of slush ice. Wherever one could find open spring water, ducks would be using it.


A dairy farm I know in the Dakotas has a small spring creek and three spring holes flowing on the south end of the property. After visiting Farmer Brown in his milking barn, Scott Wuebber and I trekked across the pasture to the largest of the spring holes.

Steam floated above the water. At our approach, more than a hundred ducks and several dozen Canada geese flushed from the creek. The displaced ducks started to return as we set decoys. But we were easily spotted in our makeshift blind, even though we were wearing whites and remained still. Although we scratched down several drake mallards, our morning hunt was mostly a lesson in futility. At 10:45 a.m., we headed for the truck and into town for a late breakfast.


After lunch, the sky turned gray. The temperature was dropping fast. When we returned to the spring hole, the wind had picked up -- a front was moving in from the northwest.

We decided to move to the opposite side of the spring hole for better cover. The first ducks arrived before we were ready, and we missed them with skill and finesse. Minutes later, a flock of 25 mallards dropped in without circling. Three drakes stayed.

As Wuebber's young black lab, Trico, retrieved the greenheads, more ducks worked the decoys. We knew we were in for the kind of afternoon wildfowlers experience only once or twice a season, if they are lucky. We decided to alternate shots -- one gun at a time, drakes only.

The wind increased to 15 to 20 knots as the temperature fell below zero. With it, came the mallards. Big, beautiful, fat, fully feathered greenheads served up on cupped wings and flared orange feet.

Despite the harsh weather, we took our time and limited easily. The mallards we shot froze solid within 20 minutes.

The sky darkened, the wind howled and the snow blew sideways as we retrieved our decoys. When we reached our truck, the wind had subsided, but it continued to snow steadily. The thermometer read minus 18. The temperature had dropped 33 degrees since 8 a.m.

We were very cold, but satisfied duck hunters.

Dale Spartas is a professional wildlife photographer from Bozeman, Mont.

Recommended for You

Make summertime barbecues super easy by grilling up one of these duck recipes from Scott Leysath, Recipes

2 Easy Duck Recipes for Summertime Grilling

WILDFOWL Online Staff

Make summertime barbecues super easy by grilling up one of these duck recipes from Scott...

Here's how to cash in on the spreading numbers of white-fronts. Hunting Tactics

Take Advantage of the Specklebelly Surge

John Gordon

Here's how to cash in on the spreading numbers of white-fronts.

To date, Ducks Unlimited has played a role in conserving 14 million acres. Industry

Ducks Unlimited: A Duck Man's Best Friend

David Hart

To date, Ducks Unlimited has played a role in conserving 14 million acres.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Franchi 12-Gauge Affinity Semiauto Shotgun

Franchi 12-Gauge Affinity Semiauto Shotgun

Craig Boddington and Eric Poole take a look at the new modern Franchi Affinity shotgun.

Arkansas Snow Geese

Arkansas Snow Geese

Wildfowl Editor Skip Knowles took this short video showing all the Snow Geese flying. Let's just say, he had a very good hunt!

Women

Women's Waterfowl Lineup

SITKA Gear waterfowl product manager Jim Saubier shows off the company's full line-up of women's waterfowl hunting gear for 2019. From warm and moisture-wicking base layers to water and windproof outer layers, this is a complete system for women who love to chase fall and wintertime ducks and geese across the four flyways!

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

SITKA Gear waterfowl product manager Jim Saubier shows off the Bozeman, Montana company's full line-up of women's waterfowl hunting gear for 2019. From warm and moisture wicking base layers to water and windproof outer layers, this is a complete system for women who love to chase fall and wintertime ducks and geese across the four flyways! Clothing & Waders

New SITKA Women's Waterfowl Lineup for 2019

Lynn Burkhead - January 28, 2019

SITKA Gear waterfowl product manager Jim Saubier shows off the Bozeman, Montana company's full...

Author John M. Taylor has broken down the top waterfowl shotguns for the 2018 season. Shotguns

Best Waterfowl Shotguns of 2018

John Taylor - September 25, 2018

Author John M. Taylor has broken down the top waterfowl shotguns for the 2018 season.

Let's face it, that old mud motor from two years ago isn't cuttin' it any longer.

Of course, it Boats

8 Best Mud Motors for 2016

David Hart - May 26, 2016

Let's face it, that old mud motor from two years ago isn't cuttin' it any longer. Of course,...

See More Stories

More Stories

After being closed for three decades, the hunt is on for one of North America's most prized birds - the emperor goose. Stories

An Emperor Goose Hunt 30 Years in the Making

Scott Haugen - July 18, 2018

After being closed for three decades, the hunt is on for one of North America's most prized...

Birdtail Waterfowl is one of the most recognized waterfowl hunting lodges in Manitoba. Located Stories

Birdtail Waterfowl

Wildfowl Online Staff - February 12, 2018

Birdtail Waterfowl is one of the most recognized waterfowl hunting lodges in Manitoba. Located

The fair-weather, weekend warriors have long since packed it in. The dog now shivers from the Stories

The Deep Freeze

Skip Knowles - February 08, 2018

The fair-weather, weekend warriors have long since packed it in. The dog now shivers from the

See More Stories

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

×