Here are the pictures from my trip to North Dakota. Enjoy!
The first morning we met up with another buddy that has a full field spread. Driving out to the spot had us slightly concerned as it became evident he hadn't scouted as hard as he had led on. "Well there might be a house close by." Luckily it turned out to be an abandoned town hall building from the 40's or 50's. The field worked out well. We did end up competing pretty good for birds with the slough full of birds behind us though. Between 3 guys we pulled 12 ducks. We had the geese working pretty well too but could not get them to fully commit.
The next day my buddy and I decided to spend the day scouting for the rest of the week and just jumped a bunch of different potholes. Ended up with a wealth of information and 4 birds for 2 guys. This day did provide the best story of the trip though. We had jumped the hole mentioned in the next paragraph. My buddy was down retrieving a bird and I was kneeling on a knoll next to the whole. This hen mallard comes screaming over at about 40 yds. I pull up and drop her into the hay field. She is still flapping all over so I sprint over to her in my waders. All I have to do is go through about 10 feet of waist tall grass. As I am running I end up going hurdling through the air. My knee had caught a 3 foot tall ball of old rusty fence wire. Gun went barrel first into the mud and I went face first into the mud. Absolutely no chance of saving face on this one. While not overwhelming numbers the day was spent primarily scouting for the rest of the week.
We headed out the following afternoon for an evening hunt as we both had commitments in the morning. We headed to a small pothole in the same field we had done the field hunt in. This whole was maybe 15 yards across and 20 yards long. We put out 12 decoys and had a pretty decent shoot. Pulled another 4 birds on a 1 hour hunt. This was probably the funnest shoot of the trip. You couldn't see the birds until they were in the spread and there wasn't really anywhere for the birds to bug out too once in the hole. Sort of a fast and furious type shoot. Lots of fun.
The next morning the federal government had finally allowed the states to open the Federal Lands for hunting. North Dakota is crapping cash so they footed the bill to sustain the Waterfowl Protection Areas throughout the season. We headed to a fairly close public land spot for an easy morning. Ended up being the only ones there. Well after sun up we had a Black Subaru stop along the side of the road. 2 guys pile out fire off 5 rounds rapid fire. One guy clearly did not have a plug in the gun. Made no effort to retrieve any bird. I am used to this kind of arse hattery hunting public land here, my buddy not so much. He stands up to go have a chat with these fellas. One guy hides in the reeds, the other hops in the car and moves it to the next closest pull out then walks back to where is buddy is hiding. They stand there for another half hour. Mr. No Plug fires off 4 more shots (at seemingly nothing because there were no birds anywhere near anything this morning) and then they leave honking the horn loudly and abnoxiously as they go. I HATE SUBARUS!
On our way back to town we decided to take about a mile walk through a bunch of CRP field to the back end of public slough on the same tract of land we had been hunting all morning. Checked on the back end of the slough... nothing. We trudge on. More nothing. So we start returning to the truck. My buddy convinces me to check the back end as I walk back past it. I almost don't but begrudgingly trudge about 300 yds out of my way to check it out again. I come up on pretty open spot on a high bank where some dudes obviously had quite a shoot (about 100 empties laying there). Nothing again. All of a sudden.... something! 4 BWT jump up across the slough and peace out. LAME. Oh wait, they are circling back. Drop to a knee. Can't believe my luck, they are going to fly right across the front of me at about 25 yards. Following a piece of advice I had just heard I stand and aim at the first of the 4 birds zipping across the slough. I figure if I aim at the first, the last one will fall with as fast as they are flying. BANG! SPLASH! .... SPLASH!............ SPLASH! Scotch triple on BWT. Sorry Shade, eat your heart out!
Next morning we hit one of my old stomping grounds. Between 3 guys we pulled 8 birds in a 2 hour shoot. Now had I been able to hit the broad side of a barn this number would have increased drastically. Literally birds in our face all morning and I couldn't hit a lake with a rock! But the whole panned out well for my buddy who shot his limit in something silly like 25 minutes. We even switched spots at one point and the birds kept committing to where he was standing. It was an everything worked out extremely well kind of morning.
Last morning of hunting started off the way you want any duck morning to be. Cloudy and cold. We went back to the tiny hole mentioned earlier expecting a lights out shoot. NO DUCKS. NO NOTHING. After bringing up the over night weather report we had found the clouds rolled in around 5 am. Night had been clear and cold. Best we could fathom was that the sudden cold snap had sent all the resident birds south. Literally the spot had been buzzing for the whole week and then all of a sudden nothing. But that is how this sport is sometimes.
Overall, for me it is not about the birds. The trip was to spend time hunting with good friends and having fun. The birds are just a plus. It is also nice to not have to compete for spots all the time as well. Lots of good hunts, lots of great banter back and forth, and most importantly.... lots of good memories. For those of you that read along hope it was enjoying. I must say if you ever get the chance to go to ND for a hunt TAKE IT! You won't regret it.