After we packed up our gear we headed back to town for breakfast. Our mission for the afternoon was to pay a visit to the field we had scouted on the previous day. We borrowed a trailer chalk full of field duck and goose decoys from our gracious host Pete (who actually owns the duck camp), and headed out on the road. On approach to our field, we noticed over a hundred mallards loafing on a nearby pond and instantly new these were the birds gorging themselves on the wheat field the evening before. With high seventy degree temperatures and hurricane level winds, we sweat and struggled as we stuffed our blinds full of wheat stubble. The dust stuck to our faces, and stung our eyes. The wind continued to be a nuisance as we set our decoys in a vertical large group. Each full body goose decoy that we placed was susceptible to being knocked over by the wind, so we chose to limit our spread and use mainly those attached by stakes planted firmly in the ground. A handful of minutes after we jumped into our blinds, ducks and geese arose from the north and began flying above the field.
Like a slow-cruising locomotive they stacked in waves approaching our spread. A line of fifty mallards approached first, followed by two waves of white-fronted geese and cacklers, (numbering in the hundreds). Andy had gone back to the truck to secure a random piece of gear, so Mike and I steadied our nerves in anticipation for the swell of waterfowl crashing in our direction. Flying high and circling our decoys in great care, the sprightly mallards swung for what looked like a landing approach. I bellowed “Take em!” to Mike as the lead mallard discovered our deception, and peeled off to the right at a high thirty-five yards. The result was disastrous. By far the worst decision I made on the trip was calling a shot on those maleficent mallards. Mike managed to take an admirable drake out of the flock, but hundreds of geese were rapidly on decent into our spread. Once they heard the shooting, they tucked tail and hastily traveled away. With a red face full of embarrassment and wind burn, I burrowed further in my blind and cursed for my indiscretion.
The afternoon was full of frustration and success, trial and error. As the last hours of daylight presented themselves, more and more geese began surging in from the east. Having purchased a Yellow River WMD goose call during the Minnesota game fair, I was more than ecstatic with my success calling in singles and pairs of geese to our spread. The soft lows and belting highs of the call were like a sirens song in the Canadian prairie. This made the distance advantageous to our 12 gauges, as the big honkers struggled to softly set into the middle of our spread. However, in the last hour our success would come to a screeching halt. A large group of 30-40 honkers soared across the eastern horizon and made a beeline for our decoys. We feverishly called to get their attention, and sat back as they made their approach. With fifty yards left to trek, they suddenly turned sharply against the wind, and landed 150 yards away to feed. With live birds on the ground a short distance away, we didn’t stand a chance to attract the inexperienced geese that were searching for comforting companions to dine with. We watched in sorrow as small flocks of Canada geese joined their brethren in mass.
The sun billowed down in the west, and the harsh wind slowed to a warm breeze against our skin. As we nonchalantly packed up our gear, the scene was picturesque. A cow moose and her calf trotted across our field within sixty yards, and we all stood stone still with decoys in hand to take in the marvel. Thousands of white-fronted geese sailed from their feeding grounds to the frail roosting water. Regularly calling to each other in the classic “V” formation, their silhouettes showed iridescent in the last brilliance of the sun. It’s these moments that I wish I could stop time, and spend hours basking the beauty of the world God has provided.
After getting back to base camp, we prepared the infamous dish of duck ramaki. A simple dish with big flavor rewards. Andy would scorn me for giving out the recipe, but I will anyway…
- Thin strips of duck or goose marinated overnight in Italian dressing
- Water chestnuts, Olives, Pickles (Pick your favorite(s))
- Bacon or better known as “Natures Candy”
- Instructions: Wrap the chestnuts in the thin strips of duck, and then wrap in strips of bacon. Secure with a toothpick through the middle, and cook over medium low indirect heat for 30 minutes on the grill. Enjoy with cold beer or your favorite adult beverage. Best served outdoors (huddling around the grill for warmth).