Wednesday, January 18, 2012

8 degrees and hunting

So the snow has finally arrived in the Methow Valley.

With the mercury saying 8 degrees outside and snow falling harder than it has all year, Remi and I set off to the "Runway" for some jump shooting for ducks.

We get to the parking area and we are the only vehicle, and there are no fresh tracks in the snow which is a good sign that no one has already been in the area hunting earlier in the morning. 

As we walk to the side channel there is just enough wind to blow the snow sideways. I have to walk with my head down only looking up every few yards to make sure I am still walking in a line to where I want to go.

We get to the berm with the channel just on the other side. I push the safety off my gun and slowly raise up. I see one wigeon, then another. With the heavy snow and their heads constantly in the water feeding they had no idea I was there. I take aim at the first one and dump it right there on the water. The second one got up and I pull the trigger and nothing happens. I rack the chamber myself to clear the spent shell just as a green head flies from the bank in front of me, and I dump him dead. I see another wigeon and luckily I had a 3 1/2 shell as my third shot and I dumped him at a distance. Now Remi gets to work retrieving all the ducks from the snowy, icy water.

We get all the ducks to shore and continue our way down the channel. A ways up I see the shape of a duck in an open area of water. I move back into the woods to get a better angle at the duck. Remi and I crawl into an old blind and as I stand up to shoot Remi leaves the blind scaring the duck. I got off a shot and broke the wing and again Remi went out through the ice to get what turned out to be a golden eye.

We get on our way again and I can see a dark silhouette of a duck flying through the snow coming right for us. As I sit down so does Remi, and the green head flies right over us. I warn him on the first shot and drop him with the second.  This one dropped out in the deep snow and was found without much fuss.

We walk to the upper end of the channel, and scare the ducks from the areas that are not safe to hunt due to the proximity of the highway, hoping they will fly to areas we can hunt.

We walk to the complete opposite side of the channel where it meets the main river, blowing two sneaks on the way that I don't really want to talk about. We get to the main river and I have to take a short break, walking all that way in knee-deep fresh snow sitting on top of crusty snow while carrying 5 ducks just takes it out of me.

After our short intermission I go take a peek at the main river, and I can see a big duck on the opposite side of the river. It looks like a mallard drake but I'm not positive. The only problem is he is on the other side of the river and I will have to crawl about 60 yards to get behind a pile of river debris to get a reasonable shot.  So I belly crawl through knee deep snow, trying to keep the tip of my gun out of the snow. I get to the pile of drift wood, check my barrel, and find that it is clear. I peek over the pile of wood and see the duck with its head as high as it could get it to see what I was. I figured I did not have much time before it flew. I knew it was a long shot but it was standing on ice which I thought would make it a better shot then if it was sitting lower in the water.

I pulled up and shot. As a second duck flew off from the deep snow, the one I shot stayed put. Then it started to move and Remi caught sight of it and took off across the river for it. Just then I realize that the river had ice and clumps of slush drifting in the current. Remi gets about half way across the river and the duck realizes Remi is coming for it. The duck slides into the water. Remi is trying to swim up river, and seeing the duck swimming faster, she starts to whine and howl at the duck.  I run up river while breaking through the ice I was standing on. Luckily for me the water under the ice was only about three inches deep.  I get off another shot on the duck to kill it, and it drifts down right to Remi. Then Remi fights the icebergs and slush back across to me.

After I give Remi lots of affection letting her know how good she did getting that duck, we figure out what our next step is. I realize I only have one more duck to get before I get my limit of 7. Then I realize I only have one shell left.

I walk over  and look at the Channel again and see one drake sitting and feeding. I take my time and slowly crawl again through the snow to a tree. As I try to arrange to get a shot, I keep breaking branches. Each time I think the duck will fly. But it doesn't fly and I get a shot on it. After I shoot and I see it still in the water with its wing stuck up over its head, I can't help myself but to yell "HELL YA" as Remi goes and retrieves the duck. 

Again we have a long walk back to the truck with 7 ducks and the snow is getting deeper and deeper. The snow is falling so hard at this point it is hard to breathe because walking into the wind every time you breathe you breathe in snow flakes. We just put our heads down and follow the fence line to the truck.

The northern has rich orange feet (left) and the local has dull faded orange feet. (right)

When I get back to the truck I notice two of my four mallard drakes were northerns. I can tell the difference between the locals and northerns by the color of their feet and the size of their bodies and heads.

I love hunting in the snow and to shoot my limit of ducks for the first time at this location makes this one of the best days of hunting this year.


  1. Wow, you cleaned up. The birds look like fat turkeys. You could open a restaurant.

    Do you think goggles would help hunting in severe weather or just get in the way?

  2. I think they would just get in the way. Maybe have them on while walking then take them off when shooting but that is just one more piece of equipment you have to keep track of. Its up to the hunter i have having anything over my eyes while shooting, even glasses.

  3. Rory nice job on both the greenheads and the limit of birds. Make sure you don't shoot all those big northern greenheads, let a few pass on down to the south. I have yet to see a greenhead this year on the river we hunt.

  4. well they are on their way with the crazy weather we are having. We got a foot of snow yesterday and wil are expecting about 2 feet over the weekend.