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Banding Together for Waterfowl

Devils Lake Ducks

This sprawling North Dakota lake offers endless public hunting opportunities for freelance waterfowlers
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The Big Blow

That night we got our first news about the approaching storm. The weatherman on the local news described it as a "bomb." A wedge of arctic air was plunging in from Siberia, bringing high winds, heavy snow and freezing temperatures. Winter was coming early to North Dakota. Bob and I had one day to hunt before the storm hit.

The next morning we were set up in the little two-acre pond at dawn. A trickle of ducks at sunrise turned into a flood by 9 a.m. Line after line of mallards returned to the water after feeding in nearby grainfields. We took turns shooting and each bagged five mallards, plus a pintail and green-winged teal between us, by 9:30. Then we picked up and left quickly so other ducks could return and rest undisturbed. 

The storm struck late that night. The next morning, we loaded up and drove back to the marsh, but hunting was out of the question. The water was whipped into a lather and the temperature was dropping rapidly. One miscue in the boat and we'd be in big trouble, so we wrote the morning's hunt off and headed back to town.

That afternoon we decided to go looking for any hunting possibility we could find. We covered back roads and glassed for a couple of hours. Then we found a point of land that extended into an open-water flat where bluebills and redheads were crossing. We trudged out and sat on the point, hoping for some passing shots. The waves were crashing and covering us in spray. At one point Bob yelled to me, "I never thought I'd get to hunt the coast of North Dakota." We gave up and went back to the motel.

The blow continued all night and into the next day. The wind was still too strong for a boat hunt, so we slept late before heading out to scout for another walk-in hunt. Ducks were stirring and we found several possibilities, but the best spots were posted. 

That left one more day to hunt before starting for home. The weather forecast was perfect for this final morning: temperature in the high 20s, clear skies, northwest wind 15 to 25 mph. We were going back to our honey hole and anticipated new ducks in the marsh. I was tired from four days of hunting and battling the elements, but I had difficulty sleeping that night. I kept thinking about what the morning might bring.

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