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Banding Together for Waterfowl

North Woods 'Bills and 'Eyes

Bluebill hunting and walleye fishing on Ontario's pristine Lake of the Woods
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  • photo by C. Connelly
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by Will Brantley

I'm helping Bruce Batt sort through bluebill decoys at his cottage on Lake of the Woods near Kenora, Ontario. The decoys have been in storage for a while, but other than a few missing weights, they are in serviceable condition—a good thing since we'll be using them over the next few days.

"Pat and I rigged most of these decoys years ago, probably before you were born," Bruce says, setting aside a decoy in need of a new weight. This trip is my first time meeting Bruce, retired chief biologist for Ducks Unlimited, as well as his friend of 40 years Pat Caldwell, a retired senior research scientist with DU Canada. Though Bruce and Pat maintained close contact during their careers, they haven't hunted together in nearly 20 years.

We travel by boat the next morning from Bruce's cottage two hours south to Spruce Island Camp in Sabaskosing Bay. There, we'll be meeting Bob Sundberg, his sons Chad and Andy, as well as Peter Methven and his twin sons, Bill and Bryce. The Sundbergs and Methvens, longtime DU Major Sponsors and volunteers, are boating in from the Minnesota side of the lake.

A variety of waterfowl are attracted to the shallow coves and wild rice flats in Lake of the Woods, but we're focusing on deeper bays and scaup during this trip. Lake of the Woods is famous for its fishing too. Big muskies get most of the press, but the walleye fishing is outstanding as well. Walleyes will never win any cage fights against muskies, but they're much better to eat. Bob and Peter have been making fall trips to Spruce Island since their now-adult sons were kids to combine early morning diver hunts with afternoon fishing—none of it at a real fast pace.

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