Come Along on a Prairie Pothole Waterfowl Hunt

By author of The Duck Blog

Duck Hunting Adventure Awaits in the West. Are You Ready?

It might take some effort to reach the secluded slough, but the walk will be worthwhile. Photo © Banded

Watch the fence. It’s hot. Get the dog under it first, and then toss the decoy bag over and hand me your gun. You’ll have to belly-crawl under.

Yeah, I forgot to mention it’s a little wet there. Sorry. You’ll dry out when that prairie wind kicks up later this morning. But now, we have to hustle. It’ll break day in a half-hour, and we still have a good walk ahead.

Steer to the north a bit. The slough is dead ahead, but there’s a long arm of cattails in our way, and we don’t want to navigate that in the dark. It’s a good haven for skunks, too. Trust me. Taking the pasture edge will get us there quicker and cleaner.

OK, I figure that little point will be our best setup. It should put the wind over our right shoulder and give birds plenty of room to work. Plus, I saw about 150 birds loafing around the area when I glassed the water last night. With the same wind, they should be right back today. We’ll have to pound through the grass and cattails for 100 yards to get there, so just take it slow. And watch out for those cattail stalks in your eye. I lost a contact lens one time in the dark, and it ruined my first morning’s hunt.

Almost there. I can hear the dog splashing around in the water, and I think she flushed a bunch of ducks. Geez, it wouldn’t be a prairie hunt if she weren’t coated in mud before the shooting started. Here, let’s set our stools and guns down here and get the decoys out. Fifteen or 16 should do. We need to be set up at legal shooting hours, though, as those birds will be filtering back in immediately. Don’t worry too much about setting a perfect spread. Two stools ought to work.

OK, let’s grab some cover and get ready. Make sure you can see and shoot to your left. I think they’ll work in here pretty well, but let’s take the first quality shots they offer. Try to pick out greenheads, but remember, we’ll see lots of gaddies and wigeon, too, so take what you want.

All right, we’re legal, so … holy buckets! Did you see that pair? Redheads, and they’re swinging back. Ready? Shoot now.

Nice. Good work. Now we have some bonus birds on the strap. Oh, great drake. Here, let me work the dog. Back. Come. Heel. Hold. Hold. Drop. Good girl. Mark … back. Good. Come. Hold. Drop. Good job.

Sweet, now we … whoa, 10 o’clock. Mallards on the deck. Wait. Wait. Take that drake. Good shot. Oh, nice double. I think we got four out of that flock. Whoops, one hen, but that’s my mistake. Guess I got a little anxious.

Hey, we’re off to a good start. Now we can be picky and fill out our straps with no pressure. Looks like we’re in for a big sunrise and a stiff Dakota breeze all morning. If we finish out early, maybe we can run Birdie on pheasants on the way back to the truck. Or we could take a nap, grill some ducks and find a sharptail or two this afternoon. Man, you just don’t get this experience back home. There’s just something special about every prairie hunt. Oceans of undulating grass. The endless horizon. That feeling of unlimited opportunity.

But before you think I’m getting melancholy, get ready. About 20 gaddies just descended on our setup, and assuming you’re loaded up again, we’re about to make another prairie memory.

Ready?

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