here is a recap from my experience during the 2004 opener.
Friday early AM : drive for 5 hours and arrive around 7am, as per instructed, in order to secure campsite. get the feeling we got there too early as we were probably only one of 10 rigs in the whole area. 5 of them belonged to our party.
Friday early afternoon : go scouting. spend lots of time glassing the marsh looking for places the ducks want to be. finally decide on a spot about a mile out. look for landmarks to help us get there in the dark. arrive back at camp and notice that the campground is almost full. i guess getting in early was a good idea afterall.
Friday evening : eat dinner, BS around the fire, go to sleep early. 3am comes quick. campground is at or over capacity now..really glad we got here early.
Saturday somtime around 1 AM : jackasses arrive and set up tent 5 feet from our trailer. build big fire, get really drunk (or perhaps they ariived that way) and proceed to yell at other drunk jackasses in the campground. someone threatens to kick various parts of someone else's anatomy...i think i just heard a shotgun cycle. great.
Saturday 3 AM : wake up....ready to hunt. man this is going to be great. drunk jackasses are all passed out now. probably won't make it into the marsh today. eat breakfast, load up, hike out to our "spot", set up. only 2 more hours until shoot time...start seeing long streams of headlights spilling out of the campgrounds. too bad suckers...we're here first.
Saturday 45 minutes to shoot time and counting : flashlights all over the marsh..looks like fireflies. not many coming out to where we are though. can hear dogs, people, people yelling at dogs, people yelling at people....no matter though. they aren't near us. i am used to public hunting. hell., i hunt Sauvie Island...i can deal with this. a groupf guys are heading our way...they see our light and move off a respectabe distance after asking permission to wade through "our" spot. nice guys...see, this won't be that bad.
Saturday 30 minutes to shoot time : birds all over the place. working in and landing in the dekes. can't keep them out of here..everything is working perfect. birds are going to die..they will all have bands..we will limit out in 15 minutes...nobody can miss these shots...
Saturday 10 minutes to shoot time : strange dog runs into our blind. where did he come from. he looks scared and would just as soon stay with us. i stand up and take the dog out to find it's owner(s). find owner about 100 yards away..they look lost, probably hung over. i return the dog, give them a brief overview of where people are hunting and where is still available. they follow me back to our blind, look at our spread and proceed to walk down and stand 20 yards below our dekes.
SHOTS FIRED!! hey...it's still 10 minutes to go.
WWIII starts....never in my life have i heard so much gunfire and i have hunted a lot of dove openers in arizona. still 5 minutes to shoot time and the birds are already flying at 50 + yards high.
what follows for the next 3 hours in non-stop skybusting, and i mean REAL skybusting. 60 to 80 yards is a close shot. if it flies, it is getting shot at. people are shooting at ducks, geese, swans, cranes, coots, snipe, each other, well...you get the idea.
Saturday 10 AM : it seems to be over...the shooting is sporadic. we have 9 birds for 3 people. the weenies that cut us off had a great day. people spill out of the marsh and head back to camp.
Saturday Evening : good times around the campfire. people are leaving...the campground is at about 3/4 capacity.
Sunday AM: get up and take a walk down the dike to do some pass shooting. no reason for decoys in this place. people are still leaving....but some still go out for an AM hunt. 2 miles of Dike to shoot from, but of course the only other group besides ours has to stand 15 feet away from us. naturally, they are shooting that everything that flies...including anything that flies over us.
Sunday Noon : pack up and leave. I'll never complain about Sauvie Island again.
on a side note...i will go again, but for the fun of the trip and hanging out with the boys. i'll never consider it a "serious" hunt.
that said, the '05 opener was about the same..only i was better prepared and didn't drag out as much gear. we got our 3 limits and were done by lunchtime. the weather forced everyone inside..so there really wasn't much out door partying last year..and they did manage to wait until shoot time before starting WWIII. all in all it is a good time if you don't take it too seriously.
if you have never been...it really isn't a big deal. get there early to find a camping spot, anywhere is as good as the next, and spend an hour or so standing up on the road looking at the area to get a general feel for the palace. then, the next morning, just walk out to some sort of water and get ready to start shooting. it's about that easy.
Friends Don't Let Friends Shoot Mossbergs.