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The Wild, Wacky World of Waterfowling

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Before Labs

The retrieving dog of choice for nineteenth-century European waterfowl hunters wasn't the Labrador; it was the French poodle. "In Germany and France the market hunters use them extensively for retrieving," H.H. Hunnewell, Jr. wrote in 1894. "They have good noses, take to water readily, and are strong runners and beautiful jumpers." Poodles also were used extensively in Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Russia and Great Britain.

Monstrous Mallard

To see the world's biggest mallard, you'll have to travel to the village of Andrew, Alberta, in Canada. Constructed in the Lion's Club Park at the corner of Highways 855 and 45 in 1992, this gigantic duck has a wingspan of 23 feet and weighs 2,000 pounds. It was built to pay tribute to a major resting area for ducks and geese on Whitford Lake a few miles from town.

Blackduck's Black Ducks

You're probably asking yourself now, "Where is the world's largest black duck?" Appropriately enough, that bird can be seen in Blackduck, Minnesota at Wayside Park. That's not the only giant black duck in Blackduck, however. A second statue, built in 1942, sits next to the downtown Fire Hall.

Feeling Trapped

And since we're on the topic of black ducks, here's an interesting story. One black duck drake was captured 18 times during a nine-year span in the waterfowl banding traps of the Michigan Department of Conservation. An adult when first trapped and banded in 1949, the duck successfully eluded hunters and wildlife predators for 10 years. Caught in a trap on January 31, 1958, the bird's original leg band, which was worn thin with age, was replaced.

Man's Best Friend, Huh?

It's not always the hunters who do the shooting on a waterfowl hunt. Sometimes dogs get in on the act, with disastrous results.

Consider the case of Michael Boyle of East Wenatchee, Washington. Boyle and a friend were hunting from a boat on the Columbia River in October 2001 when Boyle leaned over the side to pull in a goose they had shot. Deputies said that's when a Labrador retriever belonging to Boyle's friend stepped on a 12-gauge shotgun in the boat, firing it into Boyle's leg.

Three years later, Matthew Harper of Klamath Falls, Oregon, was shot in the arm when his friend's hunting dog stepped on a loaded shotgun as Harper was pulling their boat to shore
Both men eventually recovered from their injuries, but when they got shot, they probably thought their goose was cooked.

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