The stars shone brightly as we exited the hunting cabin and climbed into the Pick-Up truck for the trip to the boat launch. The wind howled from the North-West and Ice formed along the rivers’ banks well into the stream of the mighty River! Leaving the warmth of the vehicles cab was not welcomed but the prospect of a fast and successful hunt in new territory never experienced in the past drove my enthusiasm. The expanse of surface water was massive with white caps warning those who chose to enter to beware of mother natures’ forces soon to be unleashed.
Surely, the big rig was up to the task, but one must always be prepared, for one mistake may be your last! This hunt reminded me of those hunts of my early adulthood on the Ohio river where long boat rides were necessary to get to the birds, set decoys, erect the boat blind and hunt! As light illuminated the gray boiling clouds overhead and the wave action of the water, it was evident this boat was well up to the task and in a safe and comfortable manner.
My host positioned the boat for decoy placement for his trot line rig of decoys. Being familiar with this type of rig and the steps necessary for set up came in handy as we dropped our three lines in quick time and prepared for the hunt! Nick has hunted this area for twenty-eight years. His experience allowed for decoy placement conducive for maximum action with some protection from the wind and current conditions.
Before our guns were loaded the birds were working into our decoys and the skies filled with migrating groups of divers, a sight not seen by this writer before! This was a waterfowlers dream – a new territory experience, challenging weather conditions, decoys rigged for perfection with boat blind and equipment second to none! Bird action was immediate and with the number entering our decoy spread, one could surmise – plenty of action was forthcoming with no need to be anxious over your shooting opportunities!
The first group of Bufflehead circled into the wind and flew low into our spread – the first and second shot connected with proper follow through, only the third missed on the exiting birds! Wow! The next single was knocked out with one shot! We then made sure we only shot at Buffy or Goldeneye drakes thereafter! Our limit had been achieved in minimal time. We watched the show of migrating birds over a cup of coffee and thoroughly enjoyed the panoramic display of nature at her finest.
The decoys were retrieved in record time, a beauty of the trot rig design although ice was forming on the decoy bodies from the sub-freezing temperature requiring removal before placement in the boat. Nick turned the rig with the wind and we advanced the wide stretch of water southward. Masses of Canvasbacks emerged from the waters’ surface in volumes never seen or experienced before! This display of waterfowl could be described as a Michelangelo painting orchestrated through brush strokes only mother nature could apply!
The extremely wide expanse of water, high bluffs to the east and west, in an area rich with historic prominence made this first experience on the mighty Mississippi a trip to never be forgotten! The trip back to the launch was successful and welcomed as the weather conditions seemed to worsen with the wind speed and dropping temperatures further pushing our equipment to the extreme! The warm cab of the truck was appreciated.
Back at the cabin with the fireplace blazing, the conversation and comradery experience were truly appreciated making the anticipation of the next day’s hunt filling my dreams for the ultimate waterfowl trip of a lifetime! This Diver hunt totally changed my opinion of those who chase these unique species of Duck – a luring madness not soon satisfied!