North Dakota in the fall.

Last year we started what has apparently turned into an autumn family tradition. Michael was turning ten last fall and we took a trip to North Dakota so he could do some duck hunting with me. This year we decided to take the trip again and its really more about family time then it is about the hunting. Simply put its a vacation for all of us we take lots of time off each year and lots of trips but those are generally to visit family. Something we truly enjoy doing but something is different about going away just the four of us and spending time doing only what we want. We spent time driving around and looking at the country. Discovering sights like this.

We spent time eating pie in the local cafe, watching movies at night and did you know that you can make pop corn with nothing more then some oil a pot and popping corn? This kids didn’t but they learned how to on this trip. How is it my kids got this old without knowing about kettle corn? We stayed up to late, the kids and Laura overslept most mornings and I hunted alone on those mornings but they made it out for a couple hunts and we all truly enjoyed our trip.

Like many of my hunts this year the most memorable ones seem to be wrapped up in what decoys I am hunting over. I took Madolin’s bufflehead decoys along on this trip with her permission. She wanted to be sure they were hunted over so they were truely decoys and not just some decorations on a shelf. A concept she certainly picked up from eaves dropping on my conversations with others. So my first hunt of the trip found me shooting a few drake bufflehead over her decoys. Not that I am opposed to shooting bufflehead. They are not considered the most wary of ducks nor are they the top choice for the table but they decoy with reckless abandon and offer fun sporty shooting. The drakes are easy to identify on the wing as they almost glow white compared to the hens in the flock. I admit it I like shooting them even if some look down there nose at me for it. In less than an hour I had finished out my limit much to the delight of my daughter I had bufflehead in my mixed bag.

The rest of my bag this first hunt was made up of lesser scaup. What we call Bluebills in Michigan and of course shot over my own decoys. The decoys in the picture were carved last year, simple clean line gunners that have taken a little abuse over the last year but still solid and functional. They are solid cedar carved from some very knotty 6×6’s I had laying around. Low chunky heads were used as well to ad to the strength of the blocks. I see more of this pattern in my future although I think I will hollow the next batches and use clean cedar. Carving knots sucks.

I will need to finish this post later. Its time to get some work done. Check back later for the rest of the trip.

Just a great day to be alive.

Growing up I can remember the warm fall days when the leaves were falling and the sun was shining. I always loved autumn as a kid and when I got older and started to hunt it added an entirely new level of enjoyment for me. One of the main differences between where I grew up in SE Michigan and living here in the Western UP is that fierceness of mother natures march of the seasons. Fall was a drawn out process in my childhood with several stints of Indian summer but here although it comes in with the same warm days and gorgeous colors it progresses quickly and soon the trees are standing naked and the sky is turning grey. Now don’t get me wrong I am not complaining because when the trees stand with little leaves left, the sky turns slate, the temperature starts to drop and the winds start to blow that is when the diving ducks show up and there is nothing I love more than sitting on the big water, looking at the long lines of decoys and laughing at myself and the absurdity of hunting in such conditions. But before I get to that time between fall and winter and start chasing divers there are still a few warm clear days and because I know how quickly they will be gone it creates a sense of urgency to find some time to enjoy them before they are gone. This last week was filled with those days and I finally put an entire day aside and spent it following my Chessie Bella around the grouse woods. It was a perfect day, 50 degrees and sunny. Leaves were falling fast and we had lots of birds to chase. The only draw back was with 25mph winds I could not hear a grouse flush so I had to watch the dog even more closely to see birds take wing. Bella is five and a half now and is truly a joy to watch in the grouse woods. I don’t get the chance to follow here all by myself very often. Generally I am with other people and she needs to work for the group. But when its just the two of us I can let her nose lead the way. We find a lot more birds this way see lots more of the land and to see her figure out the puzzle and push those birds into the air.. its something special. I thought this picture summed up nicely the day and how lucky I am to have such large chunks of wild and public land to roam around on.