Mallards, gadwall, teal making duck hunting easy.
With the West Zone closure fast approaching and a blustery front barreling through our state, we couldn’t wait to get into the marsh yesterday (Jan. 12). Anticipation was high for my father-in-law, Mike Chol, and I when we arrived to a hot breakfast at Doug’s Hunting Lodge in Klondike.
Temperatures hanging in the 40s made particularly brisk by stout post-front northerly winds was a welcome reprieve from the recent warm spell plaguing hunters, with fog and little or no wind to stir things up.
The hunt kicked off with waves of “squealers” (black-bellied whistling ducks) putting on a show in the colorful sunrise. Green-winged teal in bunches 25 strong blazed across the decoys, with a variety of other silhouettes skirting our field of view. It wasn’t long before we started picking our birds, my father, our guide and I taking turns shooting gadwall, mallards, pintails, green-winged teal and mottled ducks.
“We’ve had a good year,” Rick Hall said between working his Chesapeake Bay retriever Peake and keeping an eye on approaching flights.
Though the four-legged companion was quick to spring into action on Hall’s command, the handler noted that the dog has earned a much-needed rest the upcoming offseason will bring.
“The first split was really good for us down here, and especially good considering the increase in mallards we saw for that time of year,” Hall said.
Fortunately, the mallards have stuck around and have been joined by a solid showing of gadwall in the area.
The variety of Hall’s bags rival those taken anywhere in the state, with some blinds bagging eight or more species of ducks on a single hunt, along with the occasional specklebelly or snow goose.
Green-winged teal and mallards generally lead the harvests, with shovelers, pintail, squealers, gadwall and mottled ducks commonly finding their way to the straps as well.
Unfortunately, the one good look a pair of specklebellies provided us on this day was quickly aborted by the duo when they noticed the spinning-wing decoy in the pond.
“The geese always avoid those things, and generally I’m only leaving it running while the teal are flying, especially late in the season,” Hall said.
He noted that, when utilizing a remote-controlled unit, the trick is getting the wings to stop with the white sides facing down to avoid spooking approaching birds. This becomes especially tough when hunting a stout wind like we experienced. Nevertheless, the ducks kept us busy, with plenty of flights working the area and very few lulls in between.
It was about 8:30 a.m. when Chol and I combined to down our blind’s 18th and final duck as a flight of a dozen or so mallards descended upon us. The bird’s bright-green head was iridescent in the mid-morning sunshine and made for a beautiful topper to our already robust strap.
After plenty of commemorative photos, we made our way back to the boat house and ultimately the lodge for a breakfast spread and conversation. Other guests of the outfit put together similar bags that included plenty of mallards, squealers, teal and pintails hanging out front.
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