When you think of duck hunting for the first time, is there someone or something that pops into your mind right away? Maybe it is your dad or a certain buddy that you hunted with, or possibly another mentor or relative? It could be the image of ducks landing in your decoys or a shot you may have made during those early years.
I know for me, I immediately think of Union Lake and dragging a heavy, aluminum duck boat through trees to get on the water. In the early ’80s there was no public access for this lake so the only way to get to the water was to muscle your boat (before anyone else beat you, of course) down a narrow path to the water.
Special Youth Hunt
This past fall my good friend and I took our boys on their first duck hunt. Minnesota had a special Youth Hunt on September 19 where waterfowl hunter 15 and younger, when accompanied by a non-hunting adult, could take ducks and geese.
The day started out by waking up my 8-year-old son, Jack. Excited for his first chance at shooting a duck, he eagerly got up. After a quick breakfast, we drove to a local lake only to be surprised by four vehicles already parked at the landing. I remember thinking that there must be some good dads or mentors in the area, and was somewhat surprised at this being it was only 5:15. After my duck hunting partner, Jay Hasse, showed up with his boy, Colten, we launched the boat and started our pursuit to find a spot.
As we boated around it soon became apparent that all the spots we wanted were taken. The shining of lights at each of these “hot spots” gave us some frustration, but we figured these boys deserved these spots since they got up before us. After boating to the other side of the lake we decided on an area that looked promising.
As Jay and I started setting the decoys the boys were more than enthused to help in the process. Showing them how to separate species they quickly started launching decoys in the air! I took this time for my own personal use and did a little dog training. Our retriever, “Bumper,” was as anxious to hunt as the boys and I knew what he wanted as soon as he saw a splash. After a subtle correction, he quickly realized that he should not bother with the decoys in flight!
Soon daylight arrived and minutes later a woodie lands in our decoys. Since it was 10 minutes early we explained to the boys about shooting hours and let this lucky duck fly away. Little did he know how fortunate his timing was. Again another good opportunity to let “Bumper” know when and if he can jump in the water.
Not long after shooting hours, the first teal came screaming by, but since it was too far out, we let it fly away much to the boys’ frustration. Fifteen minutes later here come some woodies. As we all got down, the boys took their guns off safety and fired the first shots of the season! It turns out that the trap shooting the week before paid off. One wood duck fell in the cattails!
Bumper did not see it so we used this opportunity for a blind retrieve. After a few whistle stops and casts, he came out of the cattails holding this prize possession of the boys.
The smile on their faces were priceless as the dog showed up with a young drake wood duck.
The morning continued on slower than anticipated. However, around 7:30 a.m., the highlight of the hunt took place. Jay and I thought we heard a goose, but since the group 400 yards down from us, who had nothing, but goose decoys out, were not calling, we thought it was our imagination. However, way up high there was a lone goose flying over us.
Since we only had two goose decoys out, compared to this guy’s four-dozen floaters, we thought we had no chance at this loner. We were wrong! As we subtly clucked only one call, this bird started to work us. After 10 minutes of this goose circling us, getting lower and lower, we all looked up and he was in our face, landing gear out! Again the two young hunters teamed up to crumple the bird not 30 feet away from us.
Too much for the dog to handle, Bumper immediately jumped in to make the retrieve. With all the screaming and celebrating in the boat, I barely noticed my dog. Again, looking at this from a dog training standpoint, I saw this as an opportune time to teach him steadiness. After I corrected him and got him back in the boat, I then released him to bring back the boy’s waterfowl trophy.
At 10 a.m. we decided to pull the plug and go home. The boys ended up with one more wood duck making the day’s total three. Not a bad day for a Minnesota duck hunt!
The special hunt was a great way to teach two waterfowlers, but more importantly, a chance to introduce two young hunters to the sport of waterfowl hunting. Not only did we accomplish this important task, but I got a chance to review some necessary dog work, and work out some kinks in our duck boat as well.
The memories that were made this day will be ones I know I never will forget, and I am sure will be in the heads of both Colten and Jack for a long time to come.
Be sure to visit Sportsman’s Guide for a selection of hunting dog supplies.
Jason Dommeyer has a lifetime of hunting experience and 15 years experience as a dog trainer. He has turned many pets into expert hunting dogs at Cannon River Kennels. In addition to training hundreds of hunting companions, he has trained dogs for premier pheasant hunting lodges in South Dakota along with duck hunting lodges in Mississippi and Mexico. His experience also includes both hunting and guiding for upland and waterfowl game from Canada to South America. If you have any questions, Jason can be reached at 507-663-6143 or visit (http://www.cannonriverkennels.com/) He provides dog training tips twice a month.