December 2000 brought a long string of extreme winter weather. Single digit days left over 2 inches of ice on all my shallow duck holes, while 8 inches of snow, wind chill factors at -25 with 30 mph gusts, just about shut the season down completely. But, being an avid duckhunter, I knew ... where there is a will, there's always a way.
Saturday, 7 a.m., December 16th: Fat Boy Ed Powell, Ron Blacksmith, Butch Long and myself, headed for blind #2, determined to hunt duck at the Wilderness Lodge. Nothing could stop us.
Walking onto the ice in front of the blind, we used a monster mall (wood splitting tool) and broke out a 15-foot hole, shoving the loose pieces under the remaining ice. We then set 8 Enticer mallard decoys and 4 motion-wing decoys on poles around the open hole and floated 6 regular decoys in the hole plus a mallard machine equipped with four regular decoys. Our spread contained at least one of each type of gizmo known to duck hunting. From a distance it had the appearance of a three-ring circus.
By 8:30 we had made ourselves comfortable in the 12-foot blind, prewarmed by the propane heaters. Fat Boy proceeded to cook biscuits and sausage gravy on the portable stove. After scarfing down all we could eat, we were ready for business.
The extreme cold forced the ducks and geese to root in the snow-covered corn fields just north of us. After feeding, water was their next agenda.
I used my camcorder to film the amusing things and comments that always seem to take place in any blind that contains Fat Boy. "Jingle Bells" played in three-part harmony on duck calls can be very entertaining.
About 9 a.m. things started happening. Four gadwalls came right into the decoys. Two of them stayed belly-up, and two escaped. Then 15 Canada's circled, hovered over the decoys, and almost landed. Lucky for them, the Canada goose season was closed here in the middle zone.
A pair of mallards came in behind the geese. Fat Boy took the drake, and Goose, Fat Boy's black lab, made quick work retrieving the bird to the blind.
Every 20 to 30 minutes we would have action.
Four bluebills circled. One came in and Butch added it to his bag. More Canadas came to our calling, well in range, which made great video footage.
About 10:30, nearly 40 mallards hooked in the north wind and came in perfectly. The guys dropped 5. Another 20 mallards circled and 4 of them pulled out. Another round of shots and Goose retrieved two in one trip.
What looked like a lost day, turned out to be very "producktive". At noon, we left with 12 ducks and some great film of the hunt.
So, improvise when you need to, but always think of safety first. Ice over deep water is very dangerous for the hunter and his dog. Frozen shallow water, 12" or less, may be worth the time to break a hole. Even if you can only make a small hole, you can shovel water on top of the ice to give the illusion of open water.
Use full body decoys, like the Flambeau Enticer Mallard or the Persuader Goose. Field decoys will also work. You may need to tighten your set more than normal, and can get by with a lot less decoys, but by using motion-wing ducks and geese, the attraction will be magnified.