It was early November, but surely didn’t feel like it, as it’s not often we see the warm 60 to 70 degree temperatures we’ve seen so far this month.
Higher temperatures are great for most outdoor activities, however, for those of us who’ve been straining our eyes scanning the horizon, hoping to see those huge flocks of migrating waterfowl, it’s been a slow start for waterfowl hunting.
The warmer weather hadn’t moved the birds south into northern Nebraska, so Team Outdoorsmen Adventures members Larry Myhre, Sioux City, IA., Josh Anderson, Hartington, NE. and I headed north to do some waterfowl hunting in Northeastern South Dakota near Sisseton, S.D. hunting on the Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Reservation. This is a large reservation, encompassing land coming down from the southern North Dakota border east to Travis along the Minnesota line on down to Watertown, the glacial Lakes area, so we had plenty of reservation land to hunt.
The warmer weather we experience in Nebraska was with us as we came through southern South Dakota and as we arrived at the Casino on I-29 east of Sisseton where we were to meet our guides; the sun was shining brightly with 62 degrees temperatures.
We’d spend a couple of days in the field with N8tive Hunting Guidez, Brandon Adams and Ray Eastman out of Sisseton, Brandon and Ray offer waterfowl and turkey hunting trips on the tribal ground in northeastern S.D. and southern N.D.
There were plenty of birds on the reservation, but the waterfowl in the area we’d be hunting had been there for a while and were well educated. We’d heard, because of the warmer weather, the main migration hadn’t made it this far south with the waterfowl stacking up in southern Manitoba and North Dakota.
The first afternoon hunt would be on a small slough just off one of the larger lakes in the area, and as we approached the slough, the water erupted as a mixed flock of Widgeons and Gadwalls took wing, flying up and over the tree-lined shoreline.
Brandon and Ray quickly put out two dozen decoys and two robo ducks while our crew blended into the cattails and trees along the shoreline with Ray’s lab, Sophie setting patiently in the cattails waiting for his master to rejoin him.
Once everything settled down, our guides begin calling, with the call of a lonely hen mallard ringing out across the slough. There’re plenty of birds in the air with several groups of them winging into the decoys, setting down out in front of the decoys, well out of our shooting range.
As another pair passed overhead, our guide’s calls echoed out across the water, through the trees and out into the distance.
It didn’t take long before the pair of Gadwalls, approached the decoy spread circling several times, looking and then pulling away. Our guide’s comeback call rang out causing the birds to circle around, coming back in the direction of our spread.
Their wings were set, feet down as Brandon called out “Take Em” and all in one motion, our shotguns came up and a volley of steel shot reached out towards the birds. The birds back peddled, pumping hard to put distance between themselves and the pond. Somehow, the birds worked their way up through our shot avoiding it, making their way to safety, up and away through the trees that lined the one side of the pond.
As we sat scratching our heads trying to figure out how we went wrong, Rays Lab, Sophie, who hit the water with the first shot, worked in among the decoys searching in vain for the bird that wasn’t there.
To say our shooting was poor was an understatement and obvious we hadn’t spent any time on the range perfecting our shooting as we ended up that afternoon with just two ducks.
That night at the Dakota Magic Casino, our headquarters for this shoot, located just into North Dakota, we talked about the next day’s hunt and all agreed our shooting the next day had best improve.
Day two would find us on another slough, with duck and goose decoys spread out in front of us as we waited for the ducks to fly. The first birds gave us a look, but moved on as others approached the spread. The calls echoed across the water and into the distance, drawing the attention of three Gadwalls, who circled once and dropped into our decoys. We came up firing with one of the three, on Brandon’s side coming down hard onto the water. Once again, our shooting wasn’t bad, but the hitting part wasn’t the best.
The other ducks responding to our decoy spread and our guide’s calls seemed to know the game and were educated, landing on the outside edge of the decoys, not giving us the opportunity to save face and improve our shooting.
As the morning drew on, there were some flocks of Canada geese starting to move, with Brandon pulling the two Mo Jo decoys from the spread as their wing movement has a tendency to spook geese.
Several geese responded to the calls, gave us a look and then winged their way south. Three started our way, split up with two flying off to the north and one passing behind us within range of Brandon’s shotgun, who took the bird on his first shot.
That afternoon we moved to a harvested wheat field where geese had fed in and we would hunt out of laydown blinds camouflaged with vegetation from the field. The decoys, placed out in front of us were in a “U” shape with room for incoming geese to set down in front of us. In the distance on the lake behind us, there were Canada’s’ loafing on the sand bar and shallow water and now all we had to do was wait for them to come off the water to feed and call them in. We spent the afternoon scanning the sky for geese, but with the warm weather, the birds weren’t flying and as the sun set, once again, the weather made for some tough hunting.
The following morning Brandon and Ray got out to a small slough early, getting the decoys laid out before we arrived. We’d be hunting out of the laydown blinds and at daybreak, we could see flocks of ducks and geese off in the distance. That morning, we had smaller groups of ducks and geese coming into the decoys, it was a good morning, as we ended up with one Canada goose and several ducks.
This hunt showed us that Mother Nature and the weather were in charge, as when it’s warm, waterfowl don’t need to eat or fly a lot, so there’s less waterfowl movement.
Since we returned, the weather up north had changed with hundreds of thousands of ducks and geese moving into the Sand Lake Refuge in Northeastern South Dakota, so there should be a good number of birds on the reservation.
Brandon and Ray of Na8tive Hunting Guides worked hard to make this hunt a success and we plan to return to hunt with them, perhaps next spring during their spring turkey season.
For information on hunting with N8tive Hunting Guides, you can contact Brandon Adams at 605-228-7290.
For more information on hunting on the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate of the Lake Traverse Reservation, you can go to www.swo-nsn.gov/FW.ASPX or give them a call at 605-698-8353.