Cold and waterfowling go together like peanut butter and jelly. I will never forget the words of my dear old Dad, when I asked him about going duck hunting one day. He was not a duck hunter, and I soon figured out it was largely due to his cold intolerance. He gave a stunned look, and said, "Son, don't EVER get into that. Duck hunters are crazy...just take the coldest you have ever been and add water." I still laugh when I think about that, and I have had more than a few opportunities to learn he was largely correct.
My first layout hunt on Lake Erie was a good example. It was late December, and Sandusky Bay was already frozen tight. We set a 2 boat rig out in Lake Erie in chip ice with winds over 20 mph. Ice water splashed over the cowlings of the layout boat and ran down the back of my neck. Larger chunks of ice ran through the decoys, making maintaining our spread a challenge at the very least. Sitting in the tender was brutal as well and my hand shook violently as I tried to drink coffee. But, we were in the ducks, and all that cold was forgotten every time I sat up to shoot bluebills and the occasional mallard. All I could do was laugh out loud, I was totally hooked.
Several years ago, our public land blind had been frozen out for a week or better toward the end of the season. A brief "warm-up" occurred, and a couple of our group discovered several acres of open water in front of our blind, but not the rest of the lake. Even better, the open water was lousy with ducks! These adventurous friends broke ice from the ramp, down the channel, and across the lake to open water. They shot some ducks but were not very well hidden, preventing a real shoot-out. Another friend and I took advantage the next morning, as a cold rain started to fall, with the promise of snow and falling temperatures, motoring a small marsh boat camo'd to the hilt to the open water. We backed against the shoreline and when legal time arrived we started shooting, limiting out on mallards, blacks, and even several bluebills in a little over an hour. The rain never let up and we were soaked to the skin as we had no cover on our little boat. Snowflakes the size of silver dollars began falling on a hard west wind as we made our way back to the ramp. The rest of the lake and the channel re-froze by later that day, not opening back up until well after the season was closed. That little lake was surrounded by houses, and all I could think about was some yuppie couple coming down on Sunday morning to enjoy the fire in the fireplace and a hot cup of coffee, looking across the lake and seeing a couple of frozen waterlogged idiots across the lake, shooting ducks, laughing, and trying to keep their cigars lit. Ahh, good times...
Probably one of the most surprising examples of cold weather duck hunting was this past season in Ontario in early December. Two partners and I huddled in a more or less open boat against the reeds while the wind blew like a gale over our heads. The temperature was in the 20s and I don't even want to know what the wind chill was. Roux sat on the bench seat in front of me, periodically looking at me, like "seriously"??? Snow and sleet squalls rolled through, hitting us in the face like pellets from an air rifle. I noticed a small amount of snow had piled on the gunwales of the boat, meanwhile, a lone mallard swung into the decoys in front of me. I raised and fired, and the drake splashed down. Roux dutifully bailed out into the freezing water, and it immediately balled up into ice on his coat when he climbed back into the boat. I looked to my left and found my shotgun hull had hit the gunwale brass-first, and was now frozen in place, with the rest just hovering in open space....now THAT is cold!
|Never saw this before...|
As it turns out, my Dad was (as usual) probably right. However, I honestly wouldn't change anything. In fact, I wish I had "just a pinch" of that cold right now....
Stay cool and remember,
Brown is Beautiful (even when it's cold)