When one does something they think they should not, ought not, or could not do, there are a variety of feelings that course through the mind. Feelings such as stupidity, fortuity, calamity, and sleepy all crossed my mind in the 48 hours leading up to the departure of my trip out west.
I'm going to attempt to tackle the highlights from this trip in roughly 8 or 9 installments. I suppose that if there were chapters, they'd be:
1) Going - doing what it takes to go and getting there
2) Day One - The first day of scouting and realizations
3) Day Two - The first hunt and the long drive
4) Day Three - Hunting again and again and making corrections
5) Day Four - Staying wet
6) Day Five - Getting cold and loving it
7) A Break
8) They call him Wild Jim
9) Return to Normalcy
Still, anytime one takes on an event such as this, one must say their prayers and eat their vegetables. I'll be forever thankful to the Good Lord Above for delivering me from Dixie and into the vast and spectacular prairies.
Before I ever decided I would go out to North Dakota, I put pen to paper and made a list of qualifying reasons. For those who want to go just to kill ducks, please, consider elsewhere. Hire a guide in North Carolina. They can put you on a limit of ducks, usually. North Dakota doesn't guarantee a limit of ducks, either. A trip to the Prairies is set aside for someone who has been fortunate or wise with money, too. It's not a cheap trip to make. In fact, it might be cheaper to higher a guide if you're looking for full volume hunts of mallards and geese. I, for some reason, have no interest in shooting ducks out of a pasture, though. To me, duck hunting is about casting the decoys into water, and hoping for the magic of migration to take place before you...hopefully within good gunning range. Either Way, this is what my list looked like...
1) To see the prairies. It sounds simple. And I love a landscape with a good camera as much as I love the heft of a pair of redheads on my duck strap. The prairies are big. They're the biggest thing I've ever seen, save for the Atlantic Ocean. Whether it's the micro-hills of the central and western Dakotas, or the barn floor flat eastern portions of the Dakotas, there is something to behold for all.
2) I'm a history buff. There's no sense in going to one of the most historic parts of our continent, and not make small attempts at soaking some up. I went to the Knife River Indian Villages, to Native American Art Galleries, to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, and to Fort Berthold. South Dakota offers more in the way of good history, but North Dakota is still teeming with it. I also "toured" some old claim shacks, barns, and other lost and founds left for prairie winters. It boggled my mind to wonder who the last person was to cross the threshold of certain buildings. Often, most were revitalized into storage shelters for obsolete farm implements, but it was still incredible to see these sights.
3) I wanted to know what Ducks Unlimited had done with my banquet dollars. It's been a bit since I've cut my one way relationship with Ducks Unlimited. I had always wanted to know what these banquets did for my favorite animals. One goal was to hunt the lands purchased by Ducks Unlimited dollars.
4) I also wanted to hunt lands that were purchased with my Duck Stamp Dollars. Boys and Girls, these lands far outnumber Ducks Unlimited Lands. In fact, I'd like a perpetual membership to the Federal Waterfowl Stamp.
5) I wanted to see ducks. I love those things. Holy Jesus how they amaze me when they fly. The feel and irridescence of their feathers when they first come to bag is almost overwhelming, especially if you're either examining the subtle beauty of a gadwall or the simple and sophisticated lines of a canvasback.
6) I also wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I was sick and tired of hearing about how great it was out there, as it pertained to duck hunting. I'm almost a follower. Still, I knew I could make my trip better than ever if I did what I wanted to and not what others might.
So with that said, I'll just say that I came back with plenty of meat for the freezer, a broken shotgun, a fine example of Northern Plains Indian Pottery, a piece of lost government property, and almost everything else I took with me. I'll expound on the Chapter 1 part very soon.
North Carolina's duck season is about 10 days away. Signs point to a barely favorable opener. The hurricane certainly disrupted the northern flight. Still, much of that water is salty and ill-suited to support an awful lot of waterfowl.
The Easton Waterfowl Festival is also next week. I'm going - kinda. I'll be going to the Guyette and Schmidt auction. I'm hoping to win a good bird and also find a good bird or two in the "tailgating" that takes place outdoors. I hate to say what I'm looking to win, just in case there's someone else out there who insists on watching me spend. Either way, the Easton Waterfowl Festival is THE EVENT for waterfowlers. I'm knocking out my bucket list items at breakneck speed here lately. Others on my list are brant and black ducks from New Jersey - which is coming in December, as well as hunting Currituck.
Anyway, take a kid or a new hunter on Opening Day. Make 'em buy a duck stamp, too.