The late Don "Duckman'' Helmeke left many waterfowling legacies, not least the wood duck nesting box he designed that lives on through the Minnesota Waterfowl Association.
Recently, I picked up a couple of wood duck box kits at the MWA office in Hopkins. At about $40 apiece, the kits are a bargain and easily assembled.
My 14-year-old son, Cole, and I needed only a few tools to put the kits together. We did this a few weeks ago, before the frost was out of the ground, so we planned to mount the boxes not on 4x4 timbers, or, similarly, to landscape timbers. Instead, we would affix them to what commonly are called steel T-poles, which are used by farmers and others for fencing.
The T-poles would, we figured, be fairly easy to get into the still-frozen ground.
When the boxes were complete, we took them to a friend's property where we occasionally hunt. The land has a few ponds on it, and wood ducks are commonly seen there.
We kept a couple things in mind when placing the boxes. One, I wanted them not in direct sunshine, because heat can at times be a problem — even in wood boxes — for incubating eggs.
Also, I've read that wood duck boxes should never be placed facing one another, because hens don't like this arrangement, and often will abandon nests in such boxes.
Otherwise, we placed them in the moist ground on the edges of the ponds, which at the time still were ice-covered.
After driving the T-poles into the ground using a fence-post pounder, we used a bolt through a hole in the T-poles to connect to, and hold, the wood duck boxes to the poles. Then we placed 2-foot sections of stove pipe over the poles just under the boxes, and held the stove pipe in place by pushing a small-diameter metal rod through holes in the poles, below the stove pipe.
Finally, we added about 4 inches of wood shavings to the bottoms of the boxes. We also spray-painted the stove pipe camouflage color.
Since placing the boxes, we haven't checked them. Our hope is that one or more are used. We hope also that we have sufficiently predator-proofed the boxes with the stove pipe.
We'll see what happens. I'll keep you posted.