Traveling Trails Less Traveled. By Buckshot Anderson
For October 23rd, 2009 Edition.
Our 10th annual October trek west to the land of endless potholes began as usual with a two-truck convoy departing Sayner at 6 a.m. sharp on October 10th. However, the normalcy of the trip turned ugly within the first fifteen miles of our 735-mile journey!
The first of many, many snowflakes splattered on the windshields of our trucks about four miles south of Manitowish Waters. By the time we passed through Mercer the storm was definitely "worser." (Pardon my grammar.) From there to Hurley driving conditions could best be summed up as "white knuckle", as wind driven swirling snow made the act of following highway 51 just short of impossible.
Upon reaching U.S. 2 the snow diminished to flurries but icy road conditions slowed our westward progress. Along the route towards Ashland there was much roadside evidence that many motorists had forgotten their defensive winter driving skills. At the bridge where Fish Creek flows under U.S. 2 into Chequamegon Bay just west of Ashland an upside down car in the swamp next to the highway reminded us that bridges are often icy death traps.
From the little crossroads village of Ino to Iron River we followed a slow moving county truck spreading salt on the slick road surface. Hand held radio communication between our two vehicles indicated none of us were having fun.
Once we passed through Superior/Duluth driving conditions improved greatly and only minor snow flurries were encountered all the way to Devils Lake, North Dakota, where the fifth member of our hunting party met us. His adventuresome journey from Green Bay pretty much mirrored our grueling journey.
A lip smacking dinner of bar-b-qued ribs at The Ranch was followed by a restful night at a Day's Inn allowed us to continue our trip west the following morning. Tom Tilkens took the lead, followed by JR and Jerry DeWitt, plus Rusty the retriever, while Ed Petras, yours truly and Belle played the part of the caboose.
Light snowfall soon turned nasty again causing our 120 mile drive through early morning darkness to be another driver's nightmare. Buoyed by a super breakfast and hot coffee at the Homesteader in Minot, ND the final 120 miles to our destination proceeded as normal. By 10:30 we were unloading our gear and setting up housekeeping in a cozy old farmhouse in the middle of the seemingly endless prairie smack dab in the middle of North America's greatest waterfowl factory!
We reluctantly accepted the wintry world that surrounded us. The snow covered landscape seemed foreign so early in the fall season and the ice covered potholes that normally held hoards of duck and geese looked more like a perfect location for a game of pond hockey. But not all was bad news.
Where small patches of open water still existed in a few deeper potholes there were numerous birds for the taking. However, even this positive factor presented yet another problem. We soon found out most of the ice surrounding the small patches of open water were too fragile to support the weight of our veteran retrievers!
The first afternoon of hunting gave my two hunting companions and I a near heart-stopping experience when Belle fell through the ice while making a retrieve! My canine pal struggled in icy water, duck in mouth, refusing to drop the bird and concentrate on saving her soul. Tom quickly dragged our small Jon-boat to the pond and was in the act of breaking ice towards my struggling dog when Belle finally freed herself from the potential death trap and waddled ashore to deposit her cargo at her master's feet.!
Belle and Rusty both wear buoyant rubber dog hunting vests for warmth and floatation for just such situations, but still - it was a scary ten-minutes for both hunters and dog!
From then on I did not allow Belle to attempt retrieves that required her to travel over the ice. Our little Jon-boat became an icebreaker and was used to retrieve downed birds that landed on the ice.
All in all we experienced a duck hunter's dream hunt. Birds decoyed like airliners seeking refuge from a storm! On our second morning all members of the expedition limited out in just over one hour of hunting! This of course gave us the remainder of the day to hunt upland game birds, such as pheasants, sharptail grouse and Hungarian partridge. Or, take an afternoon nap - or scout the endless prairie via vehicle to locate additional areas to hunt at a later date.
Another favored aspect of our annual event is eating. Other than our first evening in paradise the rule for the group is the main entrée must include either duck or goose. Generally we grill steaks for our first evening meal, but the one and only local grocery store was closed on Sunday so we were forced to eat pizza, although no one complained!
Eddie was the chef on Monday and served his dish dubbed as 'Ducks LaCrosse", which is wide noodles, gravy and duck breasts simmered in a slow cooker for several hours. All plates were licked clean!
Tuesday was my turn with a meal of baked pressed duck, 13-bean and sausage stew and dark grain bread. No leftovers on this evening!
Tom took his turn on Wednesday with his famous mashed potatoes mixed with onion and peas, home baked bread and grilled duck breasts wrapped in pepper bacon. My mouth is still watering!
JR and Jerry teamed up on Thursday with their internationally famous bar-b-qued flavored deep fried duck fingers and fries, which was another five-star meal.
Tom departed for home on Thursday morning with his possession limit of ducks, four pheasants and one sharptail.
JR, Jerry and Rusty headed east on Friday morning with their possession limit of ducks, eight pheasants and one Hungarian partridge.
Eddie, Belle and I stayed until Saturday morning, but hunting conditions were so bad on Friday, due to dense fog mixed with rain and snow that we gave it up as a bad experience after an hour of wading through soggy wet cover. We left for home on Saturday morning with our possession limit of ducks, eight pheasants and one Hungarian Partridge.
Although Tom, JR and Jerry were once again forced to drive through snow and rain, Eddie, Belle and I lucked out with dry roads the entire drive home.
Before leaving our home away from home we paid a visit to our landlord, thanked him for a delightful hunt and booked reservations at the old farmhouse for the same week in 2010.
I know it's a tough experience, 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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