First Outing


Sept. 10 is opening day of duck season, so come dawn Neva and I were in the marsh. It was her first hunt, so I was wrestling with anxiety. Lil and I haven’t been letting her off her lead much, as we don’t want her running off, maybe getting lost, or maybe getting eaten by wolves. With puppies, you never know what to expect.

While the duck population in North America (and especially in the prairies) is said to be at a record high, there weren’t many ducks where Neva and I were. Sometimes the place is swarming with ducks and geese, but not this year. Very high water levels resulted in a no-show with respect to the wild rice crop, and that might be a factor. Oddly enough, dry years are better as far as duck hunting goes in northwestern Ontario. Not only does it make for a better wild rice crop (wild rice does best when water levels drop during the summer, just a part of their biological make-up), I’ve heard that when it’s dry on the prairies and ducks can’t find water, many move into the forest fringe to breed. We’re only a a hundred klicks from the prairies, so we can catch that spill-over when it happens.This year the prairies have been having a real soaker, as has this part of Ontario, so if the drought theory is sound, it’s little wonder there weren’t many ducks around this morning.

Anyway, whatever the reason, there weren’t a lot of ducks. I shot one mallard out of a flock of three. Missed a teal and a hoodie. Saw a handful of other ducks and a couple of geese. There were also quite a few grebes around our blind.

Neva didn’t cause any trouble, although she wasn’t quite sure what the heck we were doing and then didn’t get to retrieve the one duck I connected with. We were occupied doing something when the mallards came by – I was just lucky I saw them at the last moment and managed to up and fire, hitting one with my second shot. Neva, I suspect, was clued out as to why I was shooting, didn’t see the ducks, and didn’t see or hear the splash of my kill. I can’t blame her, because I was responsible for distracting her. She was also sitting in tall grass, so may not have been able to see the birds the way them came in, regardless.

We tried, but I couldn’t convince her to go for a long swim for no apparent reason; only me telling her to fetch! I didn’t push it. After we picked up the decoys from the canoe, I paddled us over to the floating mallard, and pointed it out to Neva, who, sitting in the canoe in front of me, promptly reached over with her snout, snatched up the duck and gave it to me all the while getting praised for being a ‘good girl’. Did that change her attitude!

All in all, it was good to be out and I have to say that Neva’s first hunt was a success. Plus, it brought back pleasant memories of past hunts with Brill and Heidi. A fine morning.

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