Under the big top
LA DUE, Mo. Hunting had taken a turn for the worse. The third day of the season in Henry County, Mo., wasn't the kind of day that ducks fly much. It was warm, cloudy and calm, and the few ducks in the area had been shot at for two days. Opportunities came infrequently. And when they did, they were mostly bum prospects.
A pair of teal snuck in right after shooting time and landed in the decoys, making themselves known with a shrill descent and splashing. When they flushed, ...
Read full story
2009 DUCK TREK
4:26 PM (CT)
After 10 hours and the sudden realization that we had our full six-duck limits for the six hunters in the blind, we've decided to call it a day.
We could sit out here for the rest of the evening, but Melton will be hunting here again tomorrow so we're going to get out of here and let things rest a bit. By the way, you can watch that hunt on waterfowloasis.com or you can tune in here on espnoutdoors.com and watch the action as well.
While we had a blustery day with lots of wind, the group from Georgia who will be hunting here tomorrow will have a really cold day. Temperatures are supposed to be in the 20s and the hole we shot over may be frozen.
Either way, Melton will have something figured out and you can expect there will be some great shooting early in the morning. That transmission will start no later than 7 a.m. EST.
I doubt they will go all day. But they might.
Join in. Overstreet and Bowman and the rest of the Duck Trek crew are on the road again.
3:48 PM (CT)
I don't know what has happened, but you can see a change in the ducks that are in the area.
In the last hour a lot of the mallards, especially the pairs, seem to really be working to the call and decoys very well. Not all of them, but about half.
You hit the call, you can see them respond with their body language and after one or two passes they start falling right in. That doesn't mean our shooters are hitters, but it is starting to get more interesting.
Our count is in the 30s and climbing at a faster rate than it has been.
The workability of the ducks leads me to believe that those mallards are new ducks. Maybe the big weather system is having its impacts. Either that or its moving some ducks around in this region.
If it keeps that up, we should be able to add some ducks quickly to the tally.
3:06 PM (CT)
We just keep scratching out one or two every little bit. Our count is now at 26, with a couple we will have to pick up on the way out.
That's four full limits plus.
The last one was a teal that glided in, our first teal since this morning. Most everything that is coming over the blind is pintails, big groups of pintails.
It will start out with five or so circling and then grow to 20 or more, before they finally tire or a gadwall will slip in and disturb the process.
That was going on while I typed and at least one other greenhead hit the water. It's about the time of the day that our dobber is starting to drag a little. We've been in the blind for 9 hours. At this point, we'll elect to stay until dark. That is unless a big group of mallards or teal just covers us up and we limit in the next little bit. Or some body could cry "uncle" and I'm sure the rest of would fall in line.
But my guess is we will be watching a sunset before we leave.
1:25 PM (CT)
RebelKris asked on the comment section if the front had pushed any new ducks into the area.
I wasn't here before last night, but I'm sure it has gained a lot of waterfowl. I've seen tons of snow geese, which haven't been in the area like normal.
Plus the biggest majority of the big ducks we are seeing are mallards and pintails, always an indicator that the birds are moving in this part of the country.
We called the number for the banded greenhead that Melton shot earlier and it's a Manitoba duck, banded there in August of 2005. That's a nice mature greenhead that's come a long way.
The Midwest is getting hammered but it does appear at least in these parts that a lot of ducks have moved in.
We drove in from Arkansas yesterday and there were lots of ducks in the Stuttgart area and several from Stuttgart to the Mississippi line.
The second season opens tomorrow in Arkansas and it's a good guess it will be a good one.
1:14 PM (CT)
The duck count is over 20 now. When I sat down to type, we had 21. I heard some shooting, so we may have added a bird or two.
We are not really counting, but we could be about halfway thru our legal limit. If we would have had our limit, I'm not sure anyone would be ready to leave. The action is just steady enough to keep us interested.
A few moments ago, to our south, about 10,000 snow geese got up and out of a field. Anytime that happens, typically you can expect ducks to get up with them and this time was no different. Two greenheads sailed in and were quickly put on the water.
Before that we were going through a pretty good lull, which means there was a substantial amount of BS filtering around.
Part of that discussion was on the type of clothes that Drake Waterfowl is producing, all good stuff. But it turned into how things have changed.
We're all sitting here with the latest greatest cold-weather gear. But back when I was a kid, which doesn't seem like that long ago, we would have really suffered through a day like this.
I can remember my first set of chest waders. I saved $35 dollars mowing lawns and got a pair of canvas Rainfairs. They lasted for years, but they didn't have near the insulation we have today.
I can remember wearing bread sacks under my socks to trap the heat. I'd even swipe a pair of momma's panty hose. If Joe Namath could do it, so could we.
The end result is it's cold and blustery out here. It could be miserable, but thanks to all the products we have access to now, it's more than comfortable.
12:04 PM (CT)
We were still wiping the grease from our mouths when in one of those unexplainable moments in a duck's life the big wads of ducks sitting in front of us all decided to get up at the same time.
I don't know if anything spooked them or they just decided to take a stroll around the farm, but there were thousands of ducks and geese in the air. None of them came close enough for us to peel one out, but that didn't stop us from calling.
The closest customer we had was a big redhead that hit the sun just right and was right on the edge of being too far and in range. We didn't shoot, but that would have been a nice addition to our bag.
Melton and I have been talking about how to make this experience better from the viewer standpoint. We may do it by the end of the day, but I would expect the next time you tune in to Waterfowl Oasis, you might see the change, which is to take that deck camera and make it mobile.
That way we could move the camera around and actually get in the hip pockets of the viewers. While we were visiting with Clay White of Drake Waterfowl, we would have been able to get up close and personal with some of the products he was talking about.
That might make a cool addition.
In the hunting side of things, the temperature is dropping, but the wind is starting to lay, down from 35 mile an hour gusts to 20. The sustained winds are probably below 20, but it's still blowing a pretty good clip.
11:37 AM (CT)
The catfish has arrived and our lull has gone to a full-fledged beat down on some filets.
Everyone was standing at the rail watching the skies, but once the fish hit the deck all eyes were on the pan.
It didn't last long, though. A few ducks started milling closer and the catfish was replaced by duck calls.
We're are still scratching them out one at a time. I think our count is up to 18 or 19, mostly mallards with a sprinkling of pintails, shovelers and gadwalls.
We are seeing ducks almost constantly, but only blowing to and trying to work those that are close. The wind is so strong, you'd be wasting your time on anything well off the blind.
Last year, we didn't see as many ducks and I remember blogging about working ducks that we didn't actually shoot.
The crew today isn't bashful about pulling the trigger. They are doing more missing than hitting, but that kind of thing happens in extreme wind.
Point is, we are seeing more, shooting more, etc., which is nice.
10:44 AM (CT)
We keep scratching out a duck or two every little bit and if not for the strong wind, we would probably be knocking out even more.
Our count is around 14 now and the second highlight of the morning is starting to take place. Chris Macklin just left the blind on a catfish run, which means in less than an hour, we should have hot, fried and blackened catfish in the blind.
That's living high on the hog. We enjoyed that last year and insisted that we get some more when we came this season. Melton never lets you down.
Most of our action is one or two ducks at a time, and there is a huge wad of ducks sitting on the water about 500 yards and more in front of the blind. If you climb on top of the bullpen, you can see the raft, lots of mallards, pintails and the ever-present almost suicidal spoonies mixed in with them.
Melton corrected me that the band he shot this morning was not his first band. But it was the first one shot at the Bullpen. He went on to say that has to be the first ever band shot on a live feed.
Can't argue that point. Not only are you watching us have a little fun, maybe we've seen a little history made as well.
One thing to remember, ESPNOutdoors is here today, but Melton and the Waterfowl Oasis crew hunt live here everyday. You can always check it out on waterfowloasis.com.
9:53 AM (CT)
We are going through a lull of sorts, but we figure things will pick up again once the sun starts hitting the decoys.
Browning has been keeping everybody informed with Overstreet pitching in.
That's one of the great things about a duck hunt. You can sit around, eat donuts, tell stories and in the Bullpen move around a bit. Once ducks start coming in, it's all business.
In between those times, it's a lot of good BS, mixed in with a some so-so BS.
One thing that isn't as evident to the viewers is how hard the wind continues to blow. The temperature is dropping and every once in a while the BS is interrupted by ducks milling around.
9:45 AM (CT)
If you are watching the group on the deck, every once in a while you will see one of the hunters slip through a door and go into the inside area.
They aren't getting out of the weather. Melton brought a big box of donuts from the Blue and White Restaurant in Tunica and they are in the oven in the kitchen part of the blind.
Every once in a while, one of these guys sneaks away from the group and the box of donuts is starting to dwindle.
9:20 AM (CT)
One of the things we did this morning after about 30 minutes of fighting the wind was make an adjustment in the decoys that seems to have really helped.
Note I'm not noted as a big decoy adjuster. I like throwing them out and forgetting them. No fancy spreads or designs, just plop down and let them float.
But this morning with the wind blowing so strong, you could see that the ducks were wanting to work the edge of the spread. That made it hard for us to get them within range.
Once Melton figured that out, we quickly jumped out into the spread and brought the outside edge closer to the blind. I think it paid off. We are now scratching out a few more birds, all that still seem to work the outside edge of the spread.
Like I said earlier, we're not banging them up. But we are shooting regularly.
That's the way I like a duck hunt. That way you get to enjoy all the moments.
I've been on my share of busts, but I've also been on my share of those "over in a few minutes" hunts. I prefer the type we're on right now.
As long as there is action, you could sit here all day.
8:34 AM (CT)
We aren't just shooting them up in classic Mississippi Flyway fashion, but by anyone's standards we're having a good hunt.
At this moment, we have 9 mallards in the blind, a pintail, two shovelers, a gadwall and a teal (yet to be retrieved).
The last bird to come into the blind, a greenhead, sported a leg band. Don't know who will claim it or actually walk out with it, but I can't honestly claim it. Dishonestly though, I think I will insist that I shot it.
Before I could get out there and claim it. David Melton beat me to it. But he's the one who actually shot it. His first ever by the way.
8:04 AM (CT)
One of the hardest things about strong winds on a duck hunt is getting everything perfect for ducks to work down into the decoys. If you are pass shooting, it can be a good thing. Decoying ducks is another. Ducks want to get into the spread but there are times with these gusts that it seems to just blow them out of the area.
You can get them to almost commit and it's like it's just too hard for them to get down. Often before they make their mind up they are in range, but like all duck hunters we are greedy and want to get them right in our faces.
In those cases, we miss some opportunities. But we're still having a good shoot.
I think there are seven or eight birds in the blind now: A few mallards, a couple of teal and gadwalls, the ever-present spoonbill and a single drake pintail.
7:53 AM (CT)
We are hunting this morning at the Bullpen just east of Tunica and maybe five or 10 miles off the Mississippi River.
If you are a duck hunter then you've been watching the weather system that is moving across the Midwest, bring tons of cold, snow, ice and everything else that makes you want to say "burr" just thinking about it.
In duck hunting terms, especially those from Missouri south, this appears to be the perfect storm. It will wreck havoc on some folks, but to those in the south it should bring flocks of ducks barreling down the flyway.
That's why we're excited about this mornings hunt. The one thing we're not excited about is the wind. We hunted with David Melton last season and the wind was brutal.
Not much different this season. It seems like every time we roll into town the wind comes with us and it comes howling. I think it's James Overstreet and the hot air he brings.
Either way, we're in the bull pen starting the day.
I'm here with a variety of folks we will be introducing all day. They include Stephen Browning a Bassmaster Elite Series angler and Clay White of Drake Waterfowl. A few others are milling about.
We've been hunting for a little over an hour and have a few ducks in the blind. I'll get the accurate count in a moment.
There's a good amount of ducks everywhere, but once again the wind is playing havoc on us.