Two of our hunters ventured away from the Rochester basin on Saturday to chase ducks in the rivers just East of Rochester, Minnesota. The goose hunting in the Rochester area has been strong but the duck hunting has been hit or miss in the fields.
A cold front last week supposedly pushed the teal and wood ducks out of the area. The cold marked an arrival of early wigeon, mallards and ringnecks to southern Minnesota.
Two of us decided to take advantage of the early migration and chase puddle ducks in the marsh.
The weather created some obstacles for us. The wind was calm and the temperature at day break was just below the freezing mark, which combined for a nice frost. As the morning warmed, the frost cleared, and a heavy fog set into the valley. Visibility went from darkness, to blue skies, to a fog so thick that we couldn't see the outer decoys.
The Decoy Spread:
We set up on a small 8 x 60 foot island in the backwater weave of the river. We set a dozen mallard decoys in the shallow current at the head of the island. A half dozen more mallard decoys went into the slack water behind the island. We sprinkled in additional pintail, wood duck, teal, feeder butts, shaker mags, and 2 Mojo mallard decoys throughout the spread.
We hid in the thin river willows so that we could shoot either side of the island with the west wind was coming in from the current side. The ideal situation would have put our backs to the wind but in a marsh hunt sometimes you have to make do.
The migration report was incorrect for the area. Wood ducks were gone but there was a huge variety of ducks. The day quickly became a lesson in duck identification through the fog. We saw blue wing teal, green wing teal, mallards, ringnecks, wigeon, canvasbacks, and geese.
Daybreak produced multiple flocks of ducks within the first hour of legal shooting time. The first group to commit was a wary set of wigeons. They shopped our decoys for a minute first going to the rear, then the front, and then the rear. We called and whistled to them as they circled front and rear. Finally they passed behind us, turned, and locked up their wings to buzz 10 feet over our heads. They came in with wings locked, feet down and to land in our laps.
The drake fell hard into the river and Gracie, the female yellow lab, made a nice retrieve.
Four more ducks fell to the water during the first hour and then the fog set in. For three hours it was all we could do to watch the decoys and keep track of the dogs. There was nothing we could do but eat snacks and wait it out.
Eventually the sun warmed the air, the wind picked up and the fog began to clear. Two green wing teal hens marked the arrival of a 2nd shooting time by landing in the decoys. They both found their way into the bag.
The sun eventually burned through and the birds came back. We took a few more birds and killed the final green wing teal at 1:30 in the afternoon.
We were a few shy of the 12-duck limit with a variety of birds. Included in the bag were mallard, green wing teal, ringnecks, and wigeon.
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