Traveling Trails Less Traveled. By Buckshot Anderson
For October 9th, 2009 Edition.
The time was nearing 7:30a.m. when my son, Chris, and I, plus Belle, pushed our canoe off from our put-in point to began a leisurely fifteen minute paddle into yesteryear. The date was September 26th and the importance of the date was immense to two dyed in the wool duck hunters and a six year old black Lab, as this was opening day of Wisconsin’s annual waterfowl season!
Our destination was one I have used as a setting for numerous outdoor tales, a cherished location where three generations of Anderson waterfowl hunters and close to a dozen different loyal retrievers have spent countless hours scanning the skies for mallards, wood ducks, teal and blackducks. Likewise,as residents of the old family duck blind, we’ve been privileged to view oh so many glorious morning sunrises and equally beautiful sunsets. We’ve spent time swatting mosquitoes on many much too warm early openings and broke ice getting to our blind on raw, bleak late November mornings. We’ve been entertained by muskrats, beavers, otters, and a multitude of colorful songbirds. We’ve endured drenching rain, sleet and snow and enjoyed every minute of all of the above! We’re duck hunters!
No two openings or for that matter, no two days are ever exactly alike. Just one year ago bagging a limit of mouth watering roasting fowl was fairly easy. This year – not so! Although birds were fairly plentiful, so were numbers of other hunters. Our local population of mallards were the most wariest I have ever witnessed so early in the season. Young, inexperienced birds generally cruise 50 to 60 yards high, which is still well out of normal shooting range, but this opening weekend most flocks and even singles were wearing oxygen masks and leaving vapor trails!
As one who is not shy about voicing an opinion, over the past several years I have noted our local ducks seem to be more and more wary very early in the season. My opinion concerning this behavior is that the “youth hunt” that takes place one week prior to the general population’s opening day has done wonders educating our local ducks as to the dangers that lurk below and decoy spreads that once drew birds into range rather quickly are now being scanned from above with “eagle eyes” for evidence of fake ducks and hidden hunters.
Personally, thinking back some six decades, I don’t believe I would have liked being a part of an early “youth hunt.” Going out into the marsh with dad, my uncles and family friends was much more exciting than only going hunting with one tag-along adult. I feel our present generation of future duck hunters are missing out on collecting lasting memorable memories by not getting to experience what my children and I did as young, beginning duck hunters! End of sermon.
There are few, if any, better places for fathers, sons and daughters to bond and reminisce than duck blinds, deer stands, and fishing boats. This opening, despite the fact that opportunities for bagging a duck or two were infrequent, Chris and I relaxed, enjoyed the fresh air and changing fall colors to re-live numerous past events. I personally enjoy opportunities to listen to my kid’s stories from the past, as frequently one will begin with “I don’t think I ever told you about the time………”
Besides looking back, much time is spent looking forward. Tomorrow, Oct. 10th, a three-truck convoy will begin a 750-mile trip to the pothole region of the Great Plains. For “our gang”, this will be our 10th annual journey into the heartland of North America’s greatest duck factory. Our vacation in paradise will last a week, and those who are able to participate will no doubt have a rip-roaring good time!
However, this year two of our “regulars” will miss the annual outing. My son, and one of his pals have opted to bow out of the adventure, much in part due to the present economic situation in our nation. So, instead of billing our group as the “not-so-magnificent-seven”, we’ll be reduced to the “fuddy-duddy-five.”
Our route and our itinerary will remain constant. Day one will include a pre-dawn drive north on U.S. 51 to U.S. 2. Breakfast will be worth waiting for at the Country Kitchen in Ashland. Then it’s on to Superior-Duluth and the awesome drive over the bridge spanning the St. Louis River. Next stop will be in Deer River, MN for gas, potty-time, snacks and stretching the legs and letting Belle and Rusty romp for a few minutes.
We’ll roll into Devils Lake, ND sometime shortly after 4 p.m. and check into the Day’s Inn. After freshening up a bit a short drive will take us to our evening dining destination, “The Ranch.” The Ranch is a super-duper supper club housed in what was once a large barn. The dining room is where the hayloft once was and the lounge and kitchen is where cows once ate and were milked. Usually all of us have the house special, a monstrous rack of ribs, which I declare are the finest bar-b-qued ribs either side of the Mississippi! And the cocktails ain’t bad either!
By eight or nine it’s lights out, as our wakeup call will jingle our room phones at five. A half hour later, after two or three cups of hot coffee to clear all the cobwebs we’ll once again be westward bound. For the next two hours we’ll travel through a small tunnel of light as the nearly treeless western prairie that surrounds us still sleeps under cover of darkness. We’ll be nearing Minot, ND before dawn’s pink and yellow hues can be seen in our rear view mirrors, and the twinkling lights of North Dakota’s last “big town” will cause our spirits to rise and our appetites to surge knowing breakfast will be warm, fresh and tasty when we rein in at
”The Homesteader” for more coffee and breakfast.
One of the veteran waitresses will be all smiles as he greets “that gang from Wisconsin” one more time.
Our final leg of our westward trek will cover another 120 miles. By 11 a.m. two shopping carts will be rapidly filling at the local grocery store in the small town near where we’ll be bunking at a remodeled farmhouse. By early afternoon, now dressed in appropriate hunting garb, five eager waterfowlers and two veteran retrievers will be tucked away in a stand of dense cattails scanning the big sky country for what we have waited 51 weeks to see again –flocks of migrating waterfowl by the hundreds!
During our week-long outing each veteran member of the gang will prepare a culinary masterpiece evening meal, the only requirement being fresh waterfowl must be the main entrée. After dinner we’ll watch a bit of football or major league baseball playoff game prior to hitting the sack fairly early. Rollout time comes at five to begin another day of pothole pleasantry!
Yes sir, it’s a tough job, but someone has to do it!
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: email@example.com 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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