The Best Waterfowl Hunt

March 29, 2009 by  

By PJ Maguire

PJ taking some time reflecting at the end of the duck season

PJ taking some time reflecting at the end of the duck season

I have often been asked, “What is the best hunt you have ever been on?” I am a very modest person, but I have a long list to choose from when it comes to this topic. I have been blessed by befriending some of the best waterfowlers in the country. Being lucky, and being at the right place at the right time has helped as well.

Shortly after midnight on Sept 1, 2002, I got my new Chevy truck stuck in a muddy wheat field. Luckily I was hunting with seven other guys and we managed to get the truck onto higher ground. My ragtag group of younger hunters then placed about ten dozen Canada decoys in the field. Our spread consisted of shells, silos and two-dozen Bigfoot’s. Matt Jones was concealed in the only layout blind, Phil Bettenburg and I were in goose chairs and the rest dug pits. With Jones blowing a Strait Meat honker and myself on the Big River we managed one of the best grinds in early season history, a limit of forty birds.

Three weeks later I was in the same area, in a similar wheat field with Matt Jones, Phil Bettenburg and Dave Easton. The spread was the same, plus one Mallard decoy, a hen Mojo spinner. Phil and I were once again in goose chairs; Dave and Jones were in comfortable layout blinds. There was energy in the spread for it was the opening day of duck season. I was so nervous I puked. The outcome was one I have yet to double on an opening day, a limit of ducks and geese.

Snow geese filling a stubble field

Snow geese filling a stubble field

Last fall I was lucky enough to arrive in North Western North Dakota at the same time as the snow geese. Scouting, two of my buddies and I found a wheat field that had roughly 10,000 snow geese in it. While we were putting the birds to bed I could not believe we were going to be hunting that field the following morning. Prior to this I hand only shot a handful of snows in the fall, I had concentrated my efforts on hunting snows in the spring. The next morning the sky was overcast and the wind was strong. Four of us ended up with forty-four snows and two blacks over ten dozen full-bodied decoys, with a neck-collared Ross to boot.
During the 2003 duck season, I was on a mission shooting waterfowl in North Eastern North Dakota. I was still rough around the edges and Matt Jones and I played a lot of hooky from our UND classes. One random Monday morning we set up on a shallow slough for a good old water shoot. It was a time when Matt and I would trade every other flock while hunting together. On my second go ’round, a pair of pintails came in and I dropped the drake with my second shot. Matt and I were easily joking with each other and smiling as I took my time walking through the shallow water towards the bird. When I was about five feet away I could see it was wearing a leg band through the clear water. I was filled with joy from my toes to fingers.

Later that same hunt with the fall sun beating down on me I only needed one bird to fill my daily bag. It was my turn and a pair of Mallards came like magnets for the spinner. I crunched the molted drake and watched as the hen flew over the cattails. Again I took my time retrieving this bird and again it was banded. As we were driving home, Matt rubbed his chin and said, “Maybe there are more banded birds in this area than we thought?” That day I had the force, and have not harvested a banded bird since. I still believe that bands can happen anywhere at anytime.

The best hunts dont always include a limit

The best hunts don't always include a limit

Last year, my senior year of college, I had my first experience hunting solo. I had scouted many times before by myself, but I had never ventured out with a scattergun by myself. One sunny afternoon after class, I drove a short distance from the UND campus to the infamous Kelly’s slough. I didn’t take me long to spot a single duck resting on a public creek that flowed into the East side of Kelly’s. I parked my truck a couple hundred yards down the road and wiggled into my neoprene waders. With the wind in my face I took a thirty-degree angle from the road for my stalk. I quietly placed myself within ten yards of the bird and it flushed into the sun. I dropped the drake Mallard with one shot from my Berretta.

One shot, one duck, I drove back into GF with a smile that was ear to ear. My roommate Brent looked surprised when I walked into our house only forty-five minutes from when I left. I cleaned the bird and placed it fresh on the grill. That is gourmet for any college house. Then I did what most college kids do best; I took a nap. That was the best duck hunt I have ever been on.


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