Sunday, November 25, 2012

Last Trip To Duck Camp

What the lakes normally look like this time of year.
So this year the weather has been very warm for the season. Okanogan county had two weeks of rain and above freezing temps. Normally the lakes I hunt at duck camp are frozen thick with ice. But the day before Thanksgiving I figured I would drive over there for the day and see what I could get into. The worst case scenario was the lakes would be frozen and I would go do some upland hunting.

I get up into camp and lucky me the lakes are free of ice. I get up above Long Lake and see a group of widgeon swim into a corner of the lake where I can make a sneak on them. I follow the same little draw I always do to the lake. It is harder to get down to the lake in the draw later in the year because all the leaves have fallen off of the trees making you more visible to the ducks. I get down to the lake edge behind some cattails and know I have to make my way around the bottom of the lake behind the cattails to get to where I think the ducks are. I notice that the cattails are not giving me as much cover as they usually do because the water has risen a few inches from all the rain. I get about as close to where I think the ducks are as I think possible. I stand up and nothing happened, I find a rock and throw it into the water and nothing. I’m starting to get upset thinking the ducks left before I got down there. Then one lone widgeon drake gets up and I dump it. After I shot the water beneath me exploded with ducks. I picked out two more ducks which turned out to be another widgeon and a teal and dumped both of them. The dogs were still at the top of the hill in the jeep. As I started walking back to get the dogs another teal jumped out of the cattails and I dropped it. And again another teal got up and I dropped it. Now I am at 5 ducks out of my limit of 7 and I just started hunting. I told me self I was going to stop shooting at this lake so I could continue to hunt the rest of the day. As I walk back to the jeep ducks keep flying right over me but I resist and don’t shoot.
I get to the jeep and drive down to the lake. I let the dogs out and leave my Winchester SX3 in the jeep. I take Lily over to where she can get a clear shot at a teal out in the water. But Lily being Lily, she would not go that far out to it. Remi came over and went out right away without hesitation and retrieved it. Then we went over the where the other 4 ducks were. I was standing on some wet slippery logs trying to guide the dogs to where the ducks were at the edge of the cattails. Lily caught a scent of one of the ducks and was trying to stand as far out on the logs as she could without getting in the water sniffing the air. After she fell into the water a few times she swam through the cattails and got the duck and swam back. I was very proud of her. Remi then settled down and went to work. She got the two widgeon without any issues. I knew I had one more down but couldn't see it anywhere. I figured it must have buried itself in the tall weeds. I threw a rock into the cattails where I figured the duck must be and Remi jumped in. I know when Remi gets quiet she is close. A second later she came out with the 5th duck of the lake. Of course while all of this is happening ducks are flying over and landing in front of us. But sense we did so well on this lake I set a greenhead only rule for the rest of the day.

We got back into the jeep and went to the next hole. Again it was full of teal and widgeon which flew right over us but we let them go since no greenheads were in the groups. I checked Rock Lake and didn’t see anything worth putting a sneak on. I check some other private lakes with nothing I was to pursue on them. Then I checked the pan lake at the Y.

I normally drive by and see what is in it and then sneak back to it if there is ducks, but it was full of geese and swans. I knew there was no way to crawl into that lake with all those eye balls watching for me. So I loaded up with 3 1/2 BB's and just ran over the edge of the road till they started to fly and cut loose on them. One goose folded out of the sky and they rest left without saying goodbye. The goose that was down seemed dazed but definitely not dead. I again ran back to the jeep and got the dogs. we got back down to the water’s edge and I sat Remi down pointed at the bird and gave her command of "Dead Bird" which sends her into work mode, not that she was ever out of that mode. Remi swam out to the goose and of course it tries to dive on her. After a few misses Remi finally locks her jaws onto the tail of the goose. As Remi is swimming holding onto the butt of this goose it is still trying to dive pulling Remi down in the water every now and then. I tried to run back and get the camera before Remi got to shore but Remi beat me back. Once Remi got it to shore she was having a hard time picking it up due to its size and weight.

I drove up the road and saw some mallards in a lake that I normally don't hunt due to its proximity to a ranch about 1/4 mile away. I got to the ranch house and speak with the property owner who I know. I explained to her that in October I kicked some deer hunters off her land that did not have permission to be there. I also told her that I found her fences open a few times but I closed them up for her so her cows would not get out. The I asked her if I could hunt the lake, which she gave me the OK like she always does when I want to hunt that lake once or so a year. So I drive around the lake and get into position for my sneak. The mallard were in a group of spoonies. The wind was also howling over the lake. I get close enough to where I think I can get my shot off and stand up. The ducks get up into the wind and I pick out my greenhead. I shoot threes times and all the ducks left. When they got about 70 yards out a duck dropped out of the sky into the middle of the lake. I went and got Lily out of the jeep and got her downwind of the duck. After throwing a few rocks and a few attempts of going out into the water Lily swam out and got the greenhead.

I then went to some lakes I thought would hold some geese. I was right and out in the middle of cut wheat fields there is a lake shaped like an exclamation point. In the period of the lake sat a group of geese. There is no cover around the lake except for some tall grass at the edge of the lake. I walked round to get behind the birds and walked as close as I could till I could start to see water. I didn't think there was any way I could get close enough to the birds to get a shot, but I was going to try anyway. I used the lay of the land to my advantage and crawled around rocks and small hills for what seemed like forever. I would take breaks every now and then. I was able to get behind the grass, but then the geese started to move around and get nervous. I was able to get to the last clump of grass between me and the geese. At this point I got very confident. I stood up and realized that the geese were still about 35 yards out and they weren’t getting any closer. So I pulled the trigger and watch handfuls of feathers come off of the bird I was shooting at, but nothing came down. It was a long disappointing walk back to the jeep.

After only seeing widgeon and teal the rest of the day and running out of I took off my greenhead rule and went back to long lake where walked up the other end of the lake and shot a widgeon to finish off my day.

It was a great day at duck camp and I am sure these lakes will be solid in the next week or so. So till next year I will be dreaming of duck camp.

Maps from Google Maps.

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