Finding Our Way
Our first morning began ominously. We woke up at 4 a.m. and dressed right away. Bob went outside and came right back into the room. "Fog is so thick you can barely see across the parking lot," he reported. "We're really socked in."
I went to look. The fog hung like a heavy, wet blanket. Bob and I had to navigate several miles along back roads southwest of town to get to our spot, and it would be easy to become disoriented in this soup. Still, we forged ahead. It had been a long drive from Tennessee
to North Dakota and we were anxious to burn some powder.
Surprisingly, we drove to our launch site without getting lost. We pulled on waders and loaded gear into the boat. Then we launched as the inky night oozed into a damp gray morning.
"What now?" Bob asked. We couldn't see more than 10 feet.
"Why don't we hug this cattail line until we hit open water. Then let's stop and wait for the fog to lift so we can see where we're going," I suggested.
That's what we did, idling parallel to the reeds until we came to what we thought was an opening. We tossed out a dozen decoys just in case, and pushed the boat into the cattails to wait for the fog to rise.
Our wait stretched over several hours. The air was dead calm. Every now and then Bob and I could hear the sound of duck wings beating in the fog. A couple of times ducks flashed into view over our decoys and then disappeared quickly. We kept watch and quacked occasionally on our calls, but our only "takers" were a pair of coots that paddled blissfully through our spread.
Finally, around midday, the fog blew out. We quickly picked up our decoys, got our bearings, and started motoring toward where we'd seen so many ducks the prior afternoon. We still had several hours left to salvage the day.
Navigating through a patchwork of cattails and open ponds, we turned to enter another cut when suddenly mallards began flushing—several hundred birds. There were so many ducks that we could hear the roar of their wings over the noise of the mud motor. Bob looked at me with wide eyes and a big grin on his face. This was his first trip to the prairie pothole country
with its boundless skies, which were now filled with a bounty of ducks and geese.
We tossed the decoys out and rammed the boat into the cattails, and soon mallards
started filtering back to their resting hole. We picked away at the drakes and had our five apiece in a couple of hours. Andy worked well in the shallows and retrieved several birds that we'd dropped in the thick cover.
As good as our pothole was, we watched continuous swarms of mallards sailing into another spot several hundred yards to the south. When we finished our shoot, Bob and I headed that way to scout for the next morning's hunt.
A half-mile later we started kicking up ducks in big numbers. They got up from the cattails in rolling waves. There were dozens here, hundreds there, and finally at least a couple thousand from one hole that was no larger than two acres.
"Let's hunt here in the morning," Bob said, as if I needed any convincing.