Thursday, November 1, 2012

Me vs. North Dakota - Planning Part 2 in a series

Taking a trip to Wal-Mart is a logistical nightmare. I've always taken pride in my efficiency as an upright man. Wasting time is my biggest pet wasting energy and money, follow respectively. Of course, plainning a day trip to Wal-Mart or to the local duck marsh at Cattail Point is fairly simple.  Planning for North Dakota is just like planning for any other duck hunting excursion. You have to remember to have decoys, a change of clothes, some cash money, and a way of navigating. It's just on a larger scale. Here's how it went down - and remember it was a 10 day trip, driving included...

Clothing - I packed 5 days worth of civilian clothing. This wasn't necessary. When you're out there, you can expect to live in your hunting clothes, or at least some scaled down version of it. Most people can get away with taking 2 pairs of pants, a couple of sweater, a couple of button down shirts, and maybe a hoodie. Pack a warm jacket, too. The temperatures ranged from 60 down to 10 degrees, with the windchill included. It is important to pack plenty of socks and underwear. I packed just enough.

Hunting Clothing - I packed 2 pairs of waders. This was pretty smart because I always seemed to fall in. The boot dryer I packed was also a good idea. It's nice to swamp a fairly dry set of waders every other day than to swamp wet waders, day after day. I also am a strong believer in wool. Wool keeps the body warm, even when it's wet. I packed three high quality sweaters - the kind with the waxed cotton sleeves and Windstopper liners. They're pricey, but I've had them for several years. They can also substitute as civilian clothing, assuming all of the feathers and blood gets removed. I also like to wear regular jeans or slacks under my waders. I'm most comfortable in them and most hunting or camouflaged britches have cargo pockets and pockets with flap closures, which tend to hang up in waders. I did pack a pair of longjohns, but didn't wear them at all. However, I don't mind being cold. And since I was slugging through water and had several half-mile walks across cut corn fields, I would rather not have had to sweat. I also packed a down jacket. They are always warm. I don't wear gloves, so I didn't pack them, and there is always the tendency to either soak them or lose them, both of which are conducive to swearing out loud. I also packed some hip boots, just in case of high water scouting. A cap and a beanie were also thrown in the luggage.

Guns - I packed three guns. No gun is reliable enough on the trip of a lifetime. I also packed replacement parts, like springs and caps. Along with these things, I packed a can of scrubber and a can of oil, along with lint free cloths and steel wool for cleaning. A small hammer and finishing nails were tucked away, too, for releasing the pins that hold the trigger and action in it's housing. Pipe cleaners rounded out the gun cleaning kit. I also packed all of my guns in hard cases because they stack easier when packing and the foam insulation was good on those bumpy prairie roads.

Decoys - I took 4 dozen, which is way too much. If you're going to goose hunt, I can't help you. Pack a trailer full of whatever you like. I did, however, pack some mallard field shells, which were of no use. They are currently for sale. All that's needed, at maximum, is a dozen puddle ducks, and a dozen divers. While I was there, there were Gadwalls and Shovelers everywhere. I like to use Gadwalls everywhere, though. Shovelers are also a favorite decoy of mine, because Shovelers are also found everywhere from ditches to dams. Blackheads and Redheads were the most prevalent divers. Make sure to be liberal with the use of hen decoys. The next time I go, I'm taking only 2 dozen, and it'll be a couple of mallards, several Gadwalls and Shovelers, and 6 a piece of Redheads and Blackheads. Cans are out there, too, but they usually just mix right in. Teal decoys would also be a good idea...those guys were everywhere. And teal decoys are light. I also rigged everything on 5 feet of line with 4 oz weights. That'll keep you safe in almost all potholes. I never lost a single decoy and was able to decoy birds into the shallower reaches of the ponds.

Etc. Gear - I packed a North Dakota Gazetteer for traveling the backroads. It was helpful, but not entirely necessary. An atlas was also mostly neglected. I did, however, carry maps of areas that I intended to hunt. I used Thunderstorm Maps from the USFWS that demostrate duck nesting density. I carried Cropscape maps, which show where certain crops are generally planted. Cropscape maps also show wetlands and grasslands, which are important for recognizing areas where resident birds might be prevalent. I also used Google Earth Maps to give me an idea of pothole size and shape. However, the GPS I packed was useful only for marking areas once I was there. I did use the GPS before ever leaving to mark certain areas that were open to public hunting. It turned out to be overkill and a lot of extra work. Save yourself the time and money and just order a PLOTS guide. It is sufficient as a map and atlas, while highlighting all public areas open to hunting. I also packed a good pair of binoculars - which was very necessary. The First Aid kit with pain meds and different liniments was also handy. I also packed several cooking implements such as tongs and spatulas that I never used. I enjoyed eating at the local greasy spoons. Also, take a good amount of cash money. Most, MOST, gas stations are well out in the prairie. Sure, the towns have a lot of gas stations, but the towns are few and far between. Other things I packed were a coffee pot, several dozen pounds of assorted snack food (nabs, ClifBars, and hard candy), and extra decoy weights & line. All were handy or would have been handy. Oh yeah - my Yeti Cooler was perfect and held ice and duck breast all week without ever having to re-ice - make the investment on one of those!

Other things I planned were an average fuel cost for the trip and lodging, of course. The North Dakota State Parks offer some lodging in climate controlled cabins. Unfortunately for me, the State Park I made reservations for, failed to inform me that they would shut down the shower facilities. It made several days miserable for me and everyone I walked past. Hotels are usually in the $90 per night range. The State Parks are about $40 per night. The Parks, however, lack television, internet, and sometimes, showers. But the cabin became a home away from home that I came to love a little bit. For 10 nights total, I think two were in a hotel, and the other 8 were in the cabin. That brought the total to approximately $500...or $50 per night. This cost is the most liable to change, based on preference.

From North Carolina to North Dakota, the trip is roughly 1800 miles. I discovered that the vehicle I traveled in got about 400 miles to the tank of gas, and that each tank cost about $63 dollars. I knew it would take me roughly 4.5 tanks to get there, and 4.5 tanks to get back. I had no idea on how much I though it would take to scout and hunt, so I planned liberally, for a tank per day. Gas is slightly cheaper there than here, too. Overall, the entire trip was about 5000 miles. Overall, the vehicle cost 16 cents per mile just to operate on gas. The total fuel cost was around $800. This cost is the most liable to change based on how hard your group elects to hunt.

I also wondered about where I'd eat. Since I did plan to dine out at least once daily, I planned for $100 of dining dollars. This was about right. The rest of the food I ate was from the grocery store and it was light snack food, deli meats, and bread. This cost me about $40 total.

The only things I wished I would have packed were a filet knife (for helping out with the possession limit), and a fishing rod. Sure, the walleye fishing is great out there, but retrieving ducks with the rod is a lot easier than watching the ducks float to the other side. I walked and waited around a lot of potholes.

Next time, I'll talk about the preconceived notions I had and how they were wrong. I learned a lot about duck hunting while I was there, but it's stuff that I can only use while duck hunting in North Dakota. And yes, it is very different than Duck Hunting in North Carolina.

No comments:

Post a Comment