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The Mallards Have Been Found

I am going to call my friend Dean in Texas and ask him what he is seeing in the rice fields of Texas

 

 

Mallard shooting has been somewhat skimpy, well maybe not skimpy, but not the numbers we have seen in other years.  Sitting in the blind and staring skyward, many days I would see high fliers winging their way south when riding a strong north wind.  Why should they stop?  With a 30 to 40 mph wind from the north, and they fly almost 30 mph, they are really moving and bypass our fine looking place for a rest.

Ernie is checking out the landscape.

 

I am going to call my friend Dean in Texas and ask him what he is seeing in the rice fields of Texas.

Sunrise is a sight to see in the early morning.

 

It was time to do some research.  When talking with old friends, we always remember the days when a good snowfall in South Dakota would push massive flocks down to Nebraska and Iowa along the Missouri River.  The blinds are just 0.5 mile from the river, and we are right in the traffic zone.

Keith with a really big goose.

 

What is different today from 25 years ago is striking.  I fish northeastern South Dakota, and when I drive up I 29 to  Webster, SD,  the landscape has changed.  While there are more potholes, thanks to government purchases of wetland areas, the farmers now grow corn. Twenty-five years ago this was pasture ground or dry land wheat.  With the new hybrids, the Dakotas can grow corn with a shorter growing period than years ago.  They are matching yields in Nebraska and Iowa which have a longer growing period.   When the corn harvest is completed,  there is always a certain percentage of spillage left in the fields.  This is what is happening. When the farmers harvest in our vicinity, we have the same feeding fields for the waterfowl. Unless there are six inches to a foot of snow on the ground in the Dakotas, the birds do not leave.  There is plenty of open water and the giant reservoirs of South Dakota provide a great place to get a drink and some sand from the North Dakota border to the Nebraska border.

There goes Jackson after a downed bird.

 

The one thing we do get is Canada geese and lots of Canada geese.  With limits now moved up to five per day, the group has been having outstanding shooting.  Still, I like the Mallards the best, even though they all eat the same.  It is just that the Mallard is a bigger duck with a bigger breast.

Windy days in the decoys.

 

The State of South Dakota has published Missouri River Waterfowl Counts (http://gfp.sd.gov/hunting/waterfowl/counts/week03.aspx)  The count is for November 26th and shows how many ducks are in South Dakota.  The top of the list is the northern most location and each site moves further south. Not shown are the counts of geese.  I assume that the majority of the ducks are Mallards as historically they are the last of the ducks to come.

 

        1. Upper Oahe                      119,600
        2. Lower Oahe                      272,500
        3. Pierre Area                           3,400
        4. Lake Sharpe                      275,725
        5. Lake Francis Case            124,600
        6. Red Lake                            45,000
        7. Lake Andes                              -

Total                                      840,825

 

 

What more can be said?  When the numbers show the massive number of birds up north.  I wonder how many came through already.

 

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This book is written by a person friend and I highly recommend it.

 

Good fishing, good hunting, and good luck.  Hank

More Stories By Hank Huntington

Hank Huntington, Esq., is a native of southwest Iowa, healthcare professional, entrepreneur, accomplished pilot, hunting and fishing enthusiast, connoisseur, father and husband. He developed this web site for people to share their fun and excitement about the great outdoors. The best part of this hobby is, after a successful hunting or fishing trip, you are able to dine on fresh game or fish, after all, “ How do you eat a golf ball?” asks Hank. Hanks father and grandfather were both avid outdoorsmen so Hank learned his hunting and fishing skills from them and has passed the tradition down to the fourth generation. Plus the love of the outdoors, and a craving for exquisite dinning, would round out the package.

As a small boy, he fished a local oxbow lake formed by the Missouri River. The lake is primarily old river bottom mud, is not real clear, and has a lot of vegetation. The southeast corner holds a huge lily pad bed, and it was there Hank learned to drag through the water and across the tops of the pads, a Johnson Silver Minnow, with a pork rind attached. This was the place for big mouth bass, and there were lots of them, and young Hank loved to catch them.

At age of 12 Hank started going with his Dad hunting, and by age 14 he was an accomplished shooter with a 12-gauge pump. Shortly after that he was given his first shotgun a Winchester Model 12 pump; he still has it today. It looks like almost new, but the gun is never to be hunted again. Duck hunting in the late 50’s had little pressure after the first two weeks of the season, and when the north wind blew and it got really damp and cold, the big Canada Mallards came.

After graduation from high school, Hank attended Midland College in Fremont, Nebraska. There he met a fellow outdoorsman, and their friendship developed in the fields and streams of central Nebraska.

Hank had little time for hunting and fishing while attending professional school at Creighton University. After graduation he married his college sweetheart and they settled down to career, family, and as often as possible, hunting and fishing.

Hank and his family frequently flew their plane north to Canada to the legendary Canadian fly in lodges to fish for Northern and Walleye. Here he taught his son all the things his father had taught him about fishing. Most of the time the two went alone to the north woods, but when camping was not involved, his wife Pam went along. She always enjoys the fact that she has caught a bigger Northern Pike than Hank, and he has been fishing for 60 years. Today along the Missouri River valley, the deer population increased to the point that in many areas they are a nuisance. The duck, goose, and turkey has also population have also soared.

Area lakes have been well stocked. Many even have a walleye stocking program that makes outstanding fishing. Several are within easy driving distance of Hank’s lodge-like lakeside home. All packaged together is great dining. By the way, Hank harvests only what he will share at a table with family or friends.

Hank says, “Whenever I am on a lake, in the woods, or in the blind, I am always reminded of God’s great bounty and His constant presence. And whether in the great outdoors or at home with my wife, I strive to be a good steward of nature and all that God has given us.”

Good hunting! Good fishing! Good day!

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