Traveling Trails Less Traveled. By Buckshot Anderson
For October 24th, 2008 Edition.
It was the 9th consecutive year of the "Not So Magnificent Seven's"(NSMS) pilgrimage to the land of (nearly) endless potholes in western North Dakota. And as usual a good time was had by all.
Our journey to the heart of North America's premiere waterfowl factory spans nearly seven hundred and fifty miles. Seeing as a majority of the congregation easily qualifies as "old guys" our travel time is distributed between two days of driving with our three-vehicle convoy. Devil's Lake is the terminal point for our first day on the road, a destination some five hundred miles from our starting point. The manager of the Super 8 always has our three ground floor rooms primed and ready for seven excited hunters and three veteran retrievers. We all look forward to dining at The Ranch, which serves the finest bar-b-qued ribs west of the Mississippi prior to securing a good nights sleep before hitting the road by six a.m. on day two.
Another one hundred and twenty-five miles west is our breakfast stop, "The Homesteader" in Minot, ND. From there it's another two hour drive to the end of the trail, which is a neatly restored farmhouse out on the vast rolling prairie of a nearly treeless landscape.
This is farming country. The friendly local inhabitants produce countless tons of grain, soybeans and sunflower seeds. This year was the fourth consecutive year of severe drought, which has left about seventy-five percent of the potholes devoid of water. In fact, many potholes we've hunted in the past are now bone dry and producing bumper crops of hay for cattle feed. But the ponds and small lakes that still contain water also contain fairly good numbers of ducks, geese, swans, coots and numerous shorebirds plus what might be best described as "tweedy birds." Even when there is a long lull in the action there is always plenty of active flying creatures to entertain us.
Waterfowlers are a unique breed of individuals. We are very similar to trout anglers and musky hunters, and quite often are one and the same. Those not infected with any or all of these three sports often have great difficulty understanding why seemingly sane persons gain such satisfaction from our chosen sports. Let me attempt to offer up a simple explanation as to why waterfowlers rate waterfowling such an exciting sport.
First and foremost is the "going and the being there." For the "NSMS" our annual excursion ranks right up there with what Christmas morning is to a child. It's the expectation as to what lies ahead each day, somewhat "I wonder what's in this package!) It's the jokes that are told and the pranks played on fellow members of the organization. It's the yummy menu (that always includes duck as the main entrée) each wanna-be chef prepares for our evening meal. It's planning the next day's hunts, mapping and plotting as though we were some sort of clandestine military unit on a highly secret mission. It's relaxing with a cocktail or two at days end, sharing our experiences, reminiscing about past adventures and often exaggerating our shooting prowess. It's a duck hunt!
I know I've said this before, but if you have never experienced a prairie sunrise or sunset you've never witnessed a more colorful and spectacular visual stimulation. The colors and patterns that are projected on the seemingly never-ending horizon are simply breathtaking. Ma Nature creates a patchwork quilt of yellows, orange, red, pink and purple that makes the beginning and ending of each day worthwhile even if the game bag lacks game!
To sit quietly in a dense patch of cattails or bulrushes while watching and listening to the earth come to life each morning is an experience the dyed in the wool waterfowler never grows tired of. The sights and sounds of a waterfowl marsh coming to life are soothing to the soul, eye and ear. Hot coffee and chocolate chip cookies never taste better than they do during the morning wait for legal shooting time. And if you are one who also is in the company of a canine companion the time spent waiting for the opening bell is even better.
Veteran retrievers are warm-blooded radar units. Dogs sense or hear early incoming birds much sooner than do their masters. I truly enjoy watching Belle, as well as all the other black Labs I've owned, scan the early morning sky for what we are waiting for. More often than not ducks will land in the water close to your concealment well before shooting time. Young inexperienced dogs often go "bonkers" and break from cover causing frightened birds to fly away wondering what species of nighttime monster descended upon them from the shoreline vegetation. For me, during my dog's formative years, this supplies me with much amusement.
As the dog matures and accepts the rules of the game it fills me with pride I have trained my dog well and we have meshed into a well-tuned unit. For me, having a well-trained hunting dog that I have trained myself is seventy-five percent of the "fun" in hunting.
As always our 2008 annual western pothole adventure created numerous additional memories for its membership. We all admired Craig's successful sneak on a small pond close to our headquarters and watching at a distance as he bagged three gadwalls with three shots! Let me tell you, triples are rare for this group of nimrods! Eddie knocked down two birds with one shot, also a rather rare occurrence. JR and Jerry brought back a limit of greenheads and pintails from a newly discovered isolated pothole, now dubbed "DeWitt Pond." Tom dropped a high-flying twelve pound Canadian goose, allowing Belle to make her first retrieve of a goose. Chris, like his partner Craig, also made a rare "triple" one windy afternoon. My most special memory was bagging the one and only canvasback taken this year by the group, plus the tough retrieve Belle made on the wily bird.
Our return trip also supplied us with more memories. We drove through an early fall snowstorm near Minot, drenching rain near Grand Forks, foggy stretches across Minnesota and an all night rain pounding the roof of our motel room in Grand Rapids.
All in all I'd rate our annual event as a "ten." And already expectations are running high for our "10th Annual" in just fifty-one weeks!
Mr. Leon "Buckshot" Anderson is one of the few old time hunting and fishing guides left in Northern Wisconsin. Buckshot is a personal friend of the family and has known and worked with my grandfather, Howard "Pop" Dean, both of whom are members of the fresh water fishing hall of fame, Legendary Guide. Buckshot has authored 7 books on the great outdoors. All of his books can be purchased directly from him, at a discount, by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to: 2220 Deadman's Gulch Road, St. Germain, WI 54558.
Books by Leon "Buckshot" Anderson Click Here
Yes; Deadman's Gulch is the correct name, I have been on that road many times. Sincerely David D. Cruger
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