Speed isn’t something I seek in duck hunting. It’s normally an event best stretched and savored. But a “fast” hunt near Pierre, South Dakota, with outfitter Cody Warne introduced me to an old-school trick that should be in every northern hunter’s blind bag.
December hunting on the Warne Ranch is usually a combo of field hunting Canada geese and mallard hunting at artesian spring holes. However, with another area leaseholder accused of baiting, Cody’s leases were considered in the sphere of influence, so he was shut down, too.
We desperately needed a late-season show for “North American Hunter TV,” so Cody promised he’d come up with Plan B — pheasants and … whatever else he could think of.
That’s how we ended up beside a completely frozen-over stock dam at 3 in the afternoon. Earlier in the day, Cody sent a guide to cut a hole in the ice and “flood” the pond with water from the frost-proof hydrant atop the dam. We arrived to find a 4-foot hole hacked in the ice and a wet spot in the snow about 10 feet by 10 feet. My confidence meter crashed.
The guide had also placed five decoys around the hole and set up two sore-thumb blinds 20 yards from the wet spot.
Cody told us birds were coming off the Missouri River to work a cornfield a section over. Until this dam froze two weeks earlier, it was a regular stop. His plan was to convince them the water had opened.
“Never…” is all I could think as Cody drove away.
In half an hour a swarm of ducks appeared over the cornfield. I blew a highball to attract their attention. A V of 10 broke off to swing over the dam.
They never circled, never hesitated. They just cupped wings and dropped into the tiny wet spot. The scouts triggered a steady stream from the swarm. The camera rolled and we shot. In just over three minutes our limit lay scattered on the ice, red legs kicking their last. The run time on the camera proved what had just happened — 3 minutes 25 seconds.
As we walked around picking them up, more piled in, landing at our feet. We could have swatted them with tennis racquets.
Old-school lesson learned. All it takes is a wet spot if it’s the only wet spot!