Feeling it Today

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Feeling it Today

Postby AverageGuy » Fri Oct 27, 2017 12:24 pm

My Brother and I took a Waterfowl hunt yesterday. We hunted a public area new to us, that I have scouted from the road, maps, Google Earth and conversations with a DNR employee who works there, but we had never set foot in the marshes. So we packed gear the night before, including my deer cart, Jet Sled, dog platform, decoys, blind bags, Mojo, stools ... for moving gear to water and then pulling them behind us as we explored the Marsh, evaluating our options as to how and where to setup. We hit the road early but had a 3 hour drive one way, with a plan to explore the parking lots for hunting pressure and select the one with the least, use daylight to explore a marsh we had never set foot in and do an afternoon to close of shooting hours hunt.

We found 10 trucks and empty boat trailers in the parking lot of main marsh boat launch. Passed on that. I greatly value my solitude when hunting and will accept less action to get it if those are the choices. Eventually pulled into a parking lot on a different marsh and visited with a nice guy who had hunted that morning and was headed home. He shared some valuable information as to how a wade and shoot hunter without a boat might navigate around the boat lanes which are places to drown or die of hypothermia in chest waders.

Unloaded our gear at waters edge so did not have to the use the cart this time, put the vest on Spud and headed into the Marsh. Ended up a mile deep after wading in 2 to 4 foot deep water and for much of it struggling through heavy vegetation, to a decent long somewhat narrow pool with some willows we could attempt to hide ourselves and Spud in, with a 30 MPH north wind whipping from our left to our right down the pool. I setup the Marsh Platform and got Spud on it and finished putting out 3 dozen decoys we had floated in. It was 1:30 pm when we were sat on our stools and loaded our guns.

Ended up scratching out 2 Mallards, 2 Pintails, 3 GWT, and a Gadwall. All but one duck fell into the tall rank marsh cover on the far side of our narrow pool. The shooting was very difficult due to wary public area ducks that were not finishing completely, 30 MPH winds which put the second shot at the edge of shotgun range and too often trying to shoot through the tops of the willow trees we were using to hide in.

Only one duck fell dead in our decoy pool. The extreme wind and tough shooting had all the rest falling 75 to 150 yards out into the tall rank marsh cover in water that was 3-4 feet deep. Spud had to struggle through it on all but one retrieve. 6 times I had to go with him to get him into the area of the fall for ducks both dead and crippled that fell 150 yards out in the flooded cover. The pup was game. And exhausted. So was I. This morning I ordered a MoMarsh dog blind on a platform. The wind yesterday took its toll on a wet dog wearing a vest. Never again for that.

We were still short of our 12 duck limit when shooting time expired. Spud and I were searching for a crippled GWT that we did not find as darkness overtook us and my Brother was picking up the decoys. It was cloudy and getting dark fast as we started back through the Marsh. I will not hunt that Marsh again without a boat but this time Spud had to swim along with us as darkness overtook us. I was so fatigued that I made a mental error in trying to cross what turned out be a boat lane. The bottom went out from under my forward foot, my heart went to my throat as I teetered on one leg and my wading staff hollering for my Brother behind me to grab me. He did, and we proceeded on.

We drove 3 hours home dodging raccoons and deer and pulled into my garage at 10:30 p.m. Beat. We love it. Will do it again. But not today.

Got some photos to share.

A view of our modest decoy spread from my stool besides Spud in the flooded willows.
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Spud looking for Ducks early in the hunt.
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That Nose came into play on all but one duck we bagged.
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So knowing my Brother's tendency to shoot the gravy bird every time, I suggested that given I was on the left and he on the right, if a flock decoyed I would shoot the bird on the left and he on the right. If a single came in I suggested he shoot it when he had the chance. He agreed. The first of two small flocks of Mallards took us completely by surprise. Two drakes were dropping feet down, one left and one right. I pulled up on the one on the left and as I got it on it my Brother dumped it with his only shot. I swung to the drake on his side found it through the tops of the willows as it banked away at 45 yards in the 30 MPH wind. We discussed what had just happened as Spud made the only easy marked retrieve from the far side of the decoy spread and I got some nice photos as he did. Those Drake Mallards never get old.
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I enjoy looking at the decoys.
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My Big Brother. Love you Brother. Shows our public area wade and shoot hunting style and gives some appreciation how hiding in the willows can yield some very restricted shooting lanes. But sticking out does not work with stale public area ducks.
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When I speak of Spud having to struggle through swimming depth heavy cover to recover and retrieve all but one duck, this photo gives some perspective on that.
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My Halloween shot as we approached end of shooting time.
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Spud hitting his platform with another retrieve.
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Hoped you enjoyed. Happy Hunting.
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Re: Feeling it Today

Postby Bigearl » Fri Oct 27, 2017 9:32 pm

Looks like a lot of work and a good time!! I'm just chomping at the bit over hear waiting 3 more weeks for duck season to open. Even then the swamps may not have water in them just yet, so who knows how long I'll be here twiddling my thumbs...
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Re: Feeling it Today

Postby AverageGuy » Sat Oct 28, 2017 9:23 am

I understand your pain. Seeing a constant stream of internet posts associated with seasons opening in late August/Sept in the North, while sitting in the MW and South waiting for Nov can be tough on a guy.
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Re: Feeling it Today

Postby jlw034 » Sat Oct 28, 2017 12:51 pm

Great write up. Several times a season, on a walk in or walk out, I have to remind myself that this is fun. But when the birds decoy perfect, when you double or triple, or when your dogs busts their a$$ to make a retrieve, it's all worth it.

Amazing what our furred companions will follow us through.

It's good you had a partner with you. Solo ducks hunts never seem as fun nor safe to me.

Question: Do you find that your wirehair is a sub-par marker? Love my dog, but compared to many other dogs I've hunted with, her marking abilities stink.

EDIT: that Momarsh stand is on my list for next year. My buddy had one for his lab, well worth the $$$.
Last edited by jlw034 on Sat Oct 28, 2017 7:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Feeling it Today

Postby AverageGuy » Sat Oct 28, 2017 7:49 pm

I used to hunt waterfowl solo a good bit. Would put on a headlamp, decoy bag on my back, shotgun on a sling, fanny pack and off into the pitch dark marsh. End up somewhere no one knew where I was, pre cell phone, just my first GWP Hank and I. Sometimes lay in full camo on a mud flat, Hank laying beside me, and sit up and shoot when the ducks came in, as there were no commercial layout blinds when I started and I could not have carried it plus decoys where I went anyway.

I would never do now, ALONE, what I did back then. My Brother is my main waterfowl partner now and a great one.

I would rate my prior GWPs as having good marking skills.

Early in his second season, Spud is not completely consistent. He marks Doves very well, marks birds shot down over his points very well. He marks single ducks well, and birds that fall into open water out to a 100 yards he marks well.

Where he does not do as well is when a flock of ducks come in it and a bird falls into heavy cover out past 100 yards. He may fail to get any mark in those situations. Perhaps it is because he does not know which bird to watch within a flock. On long marks into heavy cover he has a tendency to hunt short of the actual fall as though his depth perception does not work as well in heavy cover. I suppose it is easy for dog to misjudge distances when they are down in the cover in those situations as they would certainly loose line of sight to the fall when entering the cover.

I hope to improve the skill with marking drills. I shot 100 yard water retrieves with the Lucky Launcher and medium loads quite a bit this summer. Think I will have the Wife shoot them now from a location further away so we can work longer marks. One thing I do to try to help him is when we work these drills I say "Mark" before shooting. Then when I remember to do so, I will do the same when hunting Doves and waterfowl.
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Re: Feeling it Today

Postby Doc E » Sat Oct 28, 2017 8:45 pm

Here's what we do.
The dog must be able to do a Blind Retrieve and have been trained on the "Hunt 'em Up" Command.
Send the dog to the last place you saw the bird and when the dog gets there give it a "Hunt 'em Up" command and let their nose do the rest.

I did that today at our pond.
.
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Re: Feeling it Today

Postby carramrod » Sat Oct 28, 2017 9:17 pm

The most uncomfortable and toughest hunts are the ones we remember most. Also that momarsh stand is worth it. I've tried going the homemade route here and nothing came close.
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Re: Feeling it Today

Postby jlw034 » Sat Oct 28, 2017 9:17 pm

Doc E wrote:Here's what we do.
The dog must be able to do a Blind Retrieve and have been trained on the "Hunt 'em Up" Command.
Send the dog to the last place you saw the bird and when the dog gets there give it a "Hunt 'em Up" command and let their nose do the rest.

I did that today at our pond.
.


This is what I hope to achieve with Lena by next season. My buddies lab had several retrieves like you say. Send on a back (sometimes took a few extra backs/nicks) then when he got there, "hunt em up". Did this on a 150 yard duck and it was a thing of beauty.
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Re: Feeling it Today

Postby AverageGuy » Sun Oct 29, 2017 8:45 am

Thanks for the post Doc. We have more work to do to build some basic handling skills. Spent our summer completing steady to WSF, FF, Simple Blind Retrieves on land and water to 100 yards, Duck Search for the UT. Will work on Blood Tracking and rudimentary Handling drills next.

I wonder about Bruce's Shepherd whistle approach to que the "Hunt Dead" part of the Blind retrieve. Wind was blowing 30 MPH on that hunt and I am not sure how well a voice command would carry.
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Re: Feeling it Today

Postby Willie T » Sun Oct 29, 2017 3:49 pm

AG, I enjoyed your post today. I know a lot of us train differently. We also incorporate things we like that others do with their dogs into our training. Here are a couple I use that apply to what you described in your post. You may or may not like them. The first one applies to giving the "mark" command before you shoot the decoying birds. I do the same, but a variation. I overlay "mark" with snapping the safety off in training. Once I have that in place, I don't have to think about it. When I snap the safety off, and rise to shoot, it cues the dog to "mark". It is an intermediate step that seems to aid my dogs as they learn to mark off the gun, especially when a lot is going on with multiple birds in the decoys. The other is after teaching a "hunt it up" command, I overlay that with two whistle blasts. Then if I can send the dog to the general area of the fall, the whistle will cut the wind, so I can tell the dog to break down and hunt. As you know, there is no substitute for experience, marking birds, and hunting deep, in the dense cover you described.
Good hunting
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Re: Feeling it Today

Postby RowdyGSP » Sun Oct 29, 2017 4:15 pm

That sounds like a Helluva fun time. Great pics. Love watching that Spud dog progress into a veteran Hunter.
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Re: Feeling it Today

Postby AverageGuy » Sun Oct 29, 2017 8:13 pm

Thanks for the comments Gentlemen. Fun to share with people who do it and get it.

WillieT, good stuff. Thank you. We have more work to do ...
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Re: Feeling it Today

Postby orhunter » Sun Oct 29, 2017 8:36 pm

Sounds like elk hunting 'cept the fun starts after pulling the trigger.... Walk in the park till that happens. Which reminds me.....
SARCASM, one of the many free services I offer
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Re: Feeling it Today

Postby jlw034 » Sun Oct 29, 2017 8:36 pm

What's the next adventure for you and Spud?
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Re: Feeling it Today

Postby AverageGuy » Sun Oct 29, 2017 9:01 pm

Good one Harvey :D

Plan to hunt pheasants/quail this coming tues/wed/thurs. Going to hunt a pond on Saturday/Opening day in hopes to shoot a brace of wood ducks. Then I need to get in a tree, the whitetail rut is ON! Maybe I will have something for Spud to track ... SD, KS, and TX still ahead. Might go to AZ as well.
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