Dakota Country Magazine October 2016 Edition - Page 99

ing coffee. Who doesn’t love freshly-cooked eggs, sausage or bacon, hash browns, toast and coffee? Such food has the direct blessing of the Lord Himself when it’s cooked in small-town America. Scouting for waterfowl -- Here’s hunting at such a casual pace you don’t have to worry about filling your limit. You’re not looking to shoot anything, actually. You’re just window-shopping. This puts you in a situation where bringing birds home isn’t important at all. Rather, you get to observe, driving moderately, limping over gravel, broken trails and grassy section lines just to check a pothole over the next hill – if you can get there. You can do all this, even on the nastiest day, from the comfort of your pickup. You turn off the radio, the cell phone and sever yourself from worldly congestion. It’s just you, the sky, potholes and birds. There’s no schedule, no obligations, no hurry. You come to a fork in the road and you take it. Where it leads doesn’t matter. Waterfowl surprise -- During that scouting process, if you get far enough off t he beaten path, you crest a hill and find yourself facing a few hundred mallards or several thousand snow geese. You instinctively duck in your pickup seat so they won’t see you. Even better, you back off, slide the truck back behind the hill, get out and creep back to the edge just to revel in the beauty of such magnificent numbers of birds gathering for the migration ritual. You don’t want to disturb them, especially since you may be hunting them tomorrow morning. But you’ve got to get a photo or two. Some of the birds, mallards especially, take flight, and you settle back to witness the show. You’re a bit uncomfortable in disturbing them, but they’ll be okay. Sunrise over decoys -- I don’t like darkness. It’s harsh, cold and unfriendly. It’s the absence of life. In your haste to arrange waterfowl decoys in the middle of stubble field or on a stinky www.dakotacountrymagazine.com slough, however, you know it’s only a matter of time before your redeemer, the almighty sun, overpowers darkness and declares the solvency of another day. You might not see the sun itself, and that’s okay. Light dominates all else and there’s never been clouds thick enough to cover it. Gray skies or blue, daylight is life, and amidst a chilly fall morning on the Northern Plains, it’s as good a life gets in this dimension. Duck wings overhead -- It happens all the time. No matter how early you get into the field, you hear duck wings before you’re finished setting decoys. Ducks are insane early risers. I hate them for that. The only way you know they’re there is to, first, hear them, then see them as they glaze the silhouette side of daylight. It speeds your work and causes you to tuck your neck into your jacket. Much of the time, in the weak light, mallards will actually land, despite your erect presence. So exciting. Changing temps -- It’s amazing how the morning chill, at least in the early season, is often replaced by clinging heat after the noon hour. It’s as if the two seasons are in combat, each trying to conquer the other. Pre-dawn demands extra clothing, especially if wind dominates. Wind so strong it ripples rigid wheat stubble make you shudder. Late morning, as birds continue to strafe your decoy spread, you beg to get rid of that cumbersome parka, but to do so is prohibitive. When it’s over, sometime around noon, the first thing you do is remove clothing. The breeze slides through your sweating body, bringing relief, comfort and encouragement. A dog on point -- I’m not sure, if I had to hunt without a dog, I’d bother. I’ve often wondered, in the midst of the action, who’s enjoying the adventure more… the hunter or the dog. Watching a retriever hit frigid water to conquer a crippled duck is wonderful. Also spectacular is the upland dog, zig-zagging at Nascar pace through crippling brush, nose on the ground, Dakota Country, October 2016, Page 99