Duck hunters in western Montana might be in for some good news in December. The weather has been just short of ideal for river and warm spring creek duck hunting. It is cold enough to freeze most of the smaller ponds and the overcast and intermittent snowy days add up to better than average hunting.
The mild weather we experienced in November didn’t produce many good hunting opportunities for duck hunters. It was simply too nice for birds to be moving and there was too much open water. Times and conditions have changed.
I had a chance to go hunting last week and the ducks were flying. We saw a lot of mallards flying high and milling around. We set up our decoys on an area river and hunted off an island that was created by the low river flow. It was a cold day with the wind causing most of the chill. Sitting in the makeshift duck blind for the first time this year had a positive effect on me as it got my body ready to handle the cold windy weather during last Saturday’s Griz football playoff game.
My partner’s wet dog, for some reason, took to leaning on me most of the day to intensify the cold chill that ran through my body. And just like the Griz offense last Saturday, our duck hunting started out a little slow.
Breaking a long-standing duck hunter rule, we made the mistake of jump-shooting the hundreds of ducks off the area where we decided to set up our decoy spread and blind. Most veteran duck hunters would have let the ducks fly off without shooting at them, relying on the logic that they would eventually return without any hesitation.
The jump-shoot produced only two mallards for us and, after his first shot, my partner’s gun jammed. We also discovered after making the surprise shoot on the ducks that they had some company. About 200 geese were sitting next to the bank about 75 yards down the river. If we had known they were there, we definitely would have made the sneak next to their area on the river.
The hunting for the next two hours of the morning was slow, even though we saw quite a few large flocks of northern ducks flying high overhead. Both of us were trying to determine where all these ducks might be heading. We were hoping it was just out to feed and then they’d return to our decoy spread later in the day.
Hunting on the river for ducks is fun and frustrating at the same time. The air activity is mostly constant with many species of waterfowl flying around. It is also frustrating to see a flock of mallard ducks light across the main river away from decoys which we placed in a backwater.
Most of the day we would see loners and pairs of ducks fly into range of our shotguns. The afternoon saw some missed shots – either we shot too soon or the ducks were really out of range. It also brought some success – a couple of times my partner called in a pair of ducks and we bagged them both.
The last couple of ducks we got were certainly the highlight of my day. I was able to get off two shots before my partner and bag a “double.” To give you non-hunting Griz football fans an idea how big of an accomplishment that is: It is like recovering the football in the end zone with about 1Þ minutes left in the game to put your team ahead by nine points. Well, almost as good. I still had to help pick up the decoys.