Thursday, January 31, 2013

Part 4, North Dakota, Traveling

After a 3 month hiatus, I'm back by semi-popular demand. But during my off-time away from this blog, I passed the time dealing a few decoys, making a few decoys, enjoying the trip of a lifetime to New Jersey (which turned into more than a hunting trip), and shooting an awful lot of ducks in North Carolina. Those of you who know me well, know where my "spot" is. After 5 years of hunting this location, among others, it turned out to be the most productive, by far. I elected to hunt only this blind for the entire season, and to sample it on days that I thought might be good, bad, crowded, and boring. From this location, and on 21 hunting trips to the location, 219 birds were harvested from this location. Of course, it wasn't only me. And I was finally checked by a federal game warden, who by the way, is obviously in need of some type of affection from a woman. Anyway, we'll discuss patterning ducks AND hunters later on in the month.

Part 4 of my North Dakota essay will delve in to the day-to-day grind of making the trip up there. I think I tried to soon to write about this experience. Now that it has soaked in, I realize that North Dakota is an easy trip to make, and from now on, I'll never do like I did the first time. With that said, and through a lot of reflection, my first experience was one that I'll retain for eternity. Certainly, it was about killing ducks, but it became a trip about being a little resilient, lonesome, bored, slightly spiritual, and certainly accomplishment. I did it alone. Sight unseen. And I loved it and still love it. I'll attempt to write it just as I remember, so it won't be orderly or neat. It's was one experience at a time.

I drove non-stop to North Dakota from Columbia, North Carolina. It took about 27 hours, and I tried to sleep along the interstates in Ohio. It didn't work. I was a little frightened, and I tried to do this at dawn. Well, Ohio is known for big deer, and since it was dawn, I could only think about maybe seeing the buck of a lifetime. I saw several that would have totaled my car and face, should both of us decided to cross the white line simultaneously. And sure, I was a little bit worried about getting robbed and raped at a rest stop, but I igured that if I stopped in the rain, then my chances of sleeping without interruption were higher. No one ever knocked on my car for the 15 minutes I closed my eyes. Someone may have stared in, but my trusty side-by-side lay open, with two high brass 12 gauge shells, lying next to it. Smart plan? Doubt it.

Anyway, the drive. I faintly remember Indiana, as I drove through it for only about 200 miles or so. There was corn, white trash, and geese. Geese everywhere, I tell ya'. Since Indiana was the first place I had seen in daylight (and I had driven for 12 hours previously, all in the dark), the geese were a pleasant surprise. In fact, it was the first time in the first 12 hours I had actually thought that driving solo to North Dakota in a high mileage vehicle packed to the gills was a favorable idea. Nevertheless, Indiana passed through my rearview mirror, then Illinois. I hated Illinois. First off, Chicago was a horror. It took two hours in traffic packed tighter than intestines to travel two miles. And of course, I had to get to the far lane on three occassions. The tolls to pass through this place exceeded $40 and I found that to not be an excellent bargain. I would have paid triple to avoid the traffic, and felt as if I should have paid none to endure it. Either way, clearing Chicago offered no reprieve, as the interstate leading into Wisconsin was under construction. I traveled 200 miles at 45 miles per hour. It was awful and bumper to bumper. Nevertheless, I cleared Wisconsin and evteredMinnesota, which is actually the gateway to the famd Prairie Pothole Region. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Minnesota. The air was clear, the roads were clean, the homes were tidy and conservative. The only eyesore were the rusty fenderwells on virtually all vehicles from the prodigious salting of the roads, which apparently occurs everyday from  September 1 to July 1 the following year. By the time I crossed through Minnesota, I had driven 25 hours - one full revelation of the planet Earth, and had done so with 11 urination breaks, 3 meals, and one solitary bout of road rage.

To stay awake throughout this trip, I called my girlfriend, every hour, on the hour. We'd talk 5 minutes, and it was precious to hear her. I had never missed her in 7 years of dating until the 5th hour of this trip. She answered the phone at 3am while sleeping and noon while she was teaching. I talked to my friend Jerry on three different occassions. Jerry and I can talk about old decoys for hours or years. I was on a trip that everyone thought I was crazy for doing alone...I think Jerry admired me a little bit, but Jerry is also the kind of gentleman who can enjoy the company of no one, just as I am. Anyway, we discussed the old Maryland decoys, Portsmouth Island decoys, and the next old shorebird decoy he had his eye on. I also talked to my friend Tyler, who had abandoned me on this trip just shortly before it became a solo endeavor. There's no hard feelings, and he had the opportunity of his lifetime, just as I did - they just weren't the same thing, but they were at the same time.

At the 25th hour, approximately 10pm Eastern, I crossed the border in to North Dakota. Fargo was the gateway town. The only sign better than the "Welcome to North Dakota" sign, was the posted speed limit sign of 75 miles per hour. I had 100 miles or so before I got to Jamestown, the headquarters for my first two days of the trip. Day 1 was set for scouting, while Day 2 was hunting, I hoped. North Dakota is sparsely populated. There are Native Americans, and whites, that's it. And they're both pretty boring along the interstate. I ate 2, TWO, footlong subs from a Subway which I believed to be the only one in the state about halfway to Jamestown. The college kids inside were dressed unlike me. I was in my bespoke, gentleman's hunting woolens and tweeds. They had elected to see me for the first time in NDSU collegeiate apparel. The girls they were with were barely a 5, but were treated as if they were a 10 by North Dakota standards. They wore hiking boots with their dresses. Their car was muddy, too. Mine would follow suit, and on the very next day.

I finally arrived at the hotel in Jamestown. It was an Indian Casino. It was awful to find it. Jamestown is home to the White Buffalo - I never saw it, but it could have been hidden just like my hotel was. I did see an honest-to-goodness Wells Fargo bank, though. There were drunks parading through the street, too, as the casino was also playing host to a wedding reception. There were as many out of state vehicle tags as there were North Dakota tags, and my worries and suspicions grew. However, this was the only hotel for miles, and there are an awful lot of open miles for duck hunting. This worry was put to bed the next day. Anyway, I checked into my hotel room around midnight, Eastern time. I could barely sleep. My legs were happy to be stretched. I washed myself in the shower for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, I fell asleep, only to wake up 6 hours later, at 7am Central time, to begin my scouting. I woke up the next morning to 25 degree temperatures. I drank weak coffee, took a jog, and did my daily routine of pushups and situps. I was ready to scout - this would be the first time I would truly glass for ducks. Icovered 200 miles that first day. I couldn't hunt, as my license wouldn't begin until the next day. Scouting there isn't like scouting here. There, it's muddy roads, millions of ponds, billions of hidden ponds, and skunks. There as many skunks as ponds, it seemed. Do yourself a favor and don't hit them with your car. the Jamestown area was a great place to being my hunting. It's really the first true outpost into the pothole region. One hundred miles in any direction, one can find lots of ducks. It took me two minutes to see ducks when I left town. They flew like bees in the sky. Geese were everywhere. Posted signs were, too. I was immediately let down, but I learned a lot about what's posted and where. The roadsides are posted. The stuff well down the secondary dirt road - it ain't. and that's where I found the first of my "motherlodes" in in only two hours of scouting. I will absolutely not disclose the nearest town, but the woman who lived in the house was named Candy. Good luck finding her. After finding the motherlode, I looked for more motherlodes. I couldn't find many more. If you the reader ever meet me in person, ask me about the underwater bridge I almost didnt come out of. North Dakota is a beautiful place, but it is deslosolate. The only people that live there are those who can occupy themselves with their imagination or a tractor. Remote places have their dangers. And getting trapped, lost, or stuck out there, especially right before winter, could have you missing until the spring thaw.

Alright, that sums up the drive and initial scout. The actual hunting will come in the next entry...

No comments:

Post a Comment