During this past season of 2016 I made a bad judgment call early on in the season that turned what looked like a great hunt into a bird watching trip. Let’s set the scene here, I had been watching a pea field that was roughly a half mile by half mile in size for several days prior to the hunt. There were about a thousand Specks mixed in with probably 300 Canadas. The geese were concentrated together and bouncing around the field while feeding in the morning and during the evening. At the west edge of the pea field was a roughly one mile wide by three mile long pond that the geese had been using to roost. To the north was a wheat field I had not seen a single bird go to.
The evening before the hunt I watched as half of the geese flew to water at the edge of the pea field and the other half flew to water over a mile away in the same pond. The morning of the hunt we drove out to middle of that pea field where a small ditch from snow melt had formed that we could use as a hide for the blinds. We set up 150 decoys for a west wind to hide three people that put the water directly behind us quarter mile away, brushed out the blinds so not a bit of canvas was showing than got ready for first light. Shooting time soon rolled around and shortly after the first flock of Specks got up off the water, they were coming to the spread on a string! They came over the top of us just out of shoot range, one broke off and hooked in perfectly while the others swung north. This single was 30 yards out with feet down when I called “kill it” and I watched as my blind partners dropped it from the sky, the excitement was short lived though. We watched the rest of that flock land in the wheat field to the north of us. Every group of birds that came off the water that morning did the exact same thing, flew over us just out of shooting range hooked north and landed in the wheat field. We tried moving decoys, moving blinds and every other trick we could think of to try to help us, nothing worked. As I’m sure some of you have already figured out the mistake that I made for this hunt was being to anxious early in the season and hunting to close to the roost. For the group I hunt with our general rule of thumb is no less than a mile away from a roost. Once in a blue moon I can play the odds and have a great hunt within a mile from water BUT more often than not the hunting is sub par. We left that day with one Speck and two single honkers that swung at about sixty yards. The lesson relearned for me was DON’T HUNT TO CLOSE TO THE ROOST.
I’ve been hunting waterfowl since I could walk. I was in my first duck blind at age 2. I mainly hunted ducks in marshes, rivers, and flooded rice fields in California. I got hooked on Specks around age 18, after taking a trip to the California/Oregon border wheat fields.
I now live in North Dakota and chase Specks in dry prairie crop fields, where I’m humbled each year with new learning experiences. The challenges, friendships and memories made in pursuit of waterfowl fuels my drive and keeps me coming back for more!