Anderson: Early birds collide at duck opener

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 23, 2012 - 9:06 AM

Morning came early for our multi-generational hunting party, but vigilance and sharp shooting soon delivered a duck feast.


A good opener: Harrison Smith, left, his brothers Parker and Matthew, and cousin, Neil, join Cole Anderson, right, and Neil's Labrador, Jade, with their first-day take of 22 ducks and a Canada goose.

Photo: Dennis Anderson, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger


The issue Friday night when we turned off the shack's gas lights was whether alarm clocks in sufficient number would awaken us at 4. We also wondered just how cold our two-bit clapboard hovel might get and whether a fire in the wood-burning stove would be required. Camouflage hanging from nails and cots carpeting the floor, this was as close to "Deliverance" as a fella could get without being in the movie itself.

As it happened, every weirdo jingle imaginable awakened our crew at the appointed hour. Smartphones in the hands of smart alecks will get you that: duck quacks rising from one cot, harps strumming from another, also car horns and various techno beats that have no place whatsoever in a backwoods shanty. Soon, oatmeal and orange juice were on the table. We wanted to eat more poorly, really laying into eggs and sausages. We just didn't have time.

Across Minnesota on Saturday morning when the state's most recent duck season opened, some waterfowlers surely had only short distances to cross from where they slept to where they hunted. This did not include us. Tangles of cedar and buckthorn needed conquering to reach our waters. Thankfully, the younger among our crew were happy to break trail, bags of decoys on their backs, trigger fingers itching.

With me were Parker Smith, a Willmar eighth-grader, and my son, Cole, a high school junior. On another stand overlooking a different portion of the same waterway were Matthew Smith, Parker's brother, and Neil Smith, the boys' cousin. We had another good gun not far away: Harrison Smith, brother to Matthew and Parker, and not far from him, Willy Smith, dad or uncle to all Smiths present.

Shooting time for us Saturday was 6:34 a.m. But the morning was dark. And cold. And windy, with strong gusts whirling from the north and northwest. Our decoys, once set, bobbed in mini-whitecaps, and I worried they might not attract even a whiff of winged fowl: Any blue-winged teal or wood duck worthy of its name should have ridden these nor'westers to Iowa and points south already on Friday.

Yet as the gloom of first light arched overhead, ducks took wing. Mostly these were teal. But reasonable smatterings of mallards also outlined themselves against the brightening sky. Watching every wing beat, Cole and Parker were as alert as sentries.

The morning's earliest fliers teased the two boys, who flamed their barrel ends but drew no feathers. But they chambered more cartridges, and more still, and soon a smattering of hard-luck ducks peeled away from their squadrons and somersaulted into the boys' decoys, dead.

Back, I'd huff when this occurred, directing Duke, the young black Labrador at my side, to retrieve.

The appeal here is to all of the senses: Smell, with the marsh's pungency; also the sight of waterfowl arrowing over water; the explosion of gunfire; and, finally, the telltale splash of a duck cartwheeling into water, a retrieving dog soon also on the crash site, eager to fulfill his birthright while earning a pat on the head.

Mark, Cole said, signaling that birds were approaching.

This was a tight knot of mallards he saw, banking hard against the chilled breeze before slipping air through their primary feathers and losing altitude.

Bang. The boys' shotguns echoed.

And twice more: Bang. Bang.

A big duck fell, and the boys reloaded.

Meanwhile, Neil, Matthew and Harrison, and Neil's good dog, Jade, also were having a day of it, jacking an occasional mallard but folding mostly teal before sleeving their scatterguns in late morning.

In the end, this was a day for brothers, cousins and friends, collecting as they did some 25 birds. Willy and I mostly looked on, as our next generation of waterfowlers, and the next generation still, entombed forever memories of big days over decoys.

The dogs were tired. We cleaned the birds. The sun set. We fired up the grill.

Before us soon was a duck feast on paper plates, the birds marinated first, then braised delicately, salad and beans on the side.

Harps strumming, ducks quacking, techno beats pulsating.

Sunday morning at 4, we looked forward to hearing each.

Dennis Anderson •

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.


NY Yankees - LP: M. Pineda 0 FINAL
Toronto - WP: D. Hutchison 2
Detroit - LP: M. Scherzer 3 FINAL
Chicago WSox - WP: C. Sale 6
Chicago Cubs - WP: F. Doubront 5 FINAL
St. Louis - LP: J. Masterson 1
Cincinnati - LP: A. Simon 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: V. Worley 3
Minnesota - LP: J. Burton 2 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: A. Miller 3
Philadelphia - WP: J. Williams 7 FINAL
NY Mets - LP: B. Colon 2
Miami - WP: J. Cosart 4 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: A. Harang 0
Boston - LP: A. Webster 0 FINAL
Tampa Bay - WP: J. Odorizzi 7
Cleveland - WP: J. Tomlin 3 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: S. Downs 2
Detroit - WP: K. Ryan 8 FINAL
Chicago WSox - LP: C. Bassitt 4
Texas - LP: P. Klein 0 FINAL
Houston - WP: S. Feldman 2
Colorado - WP: T. Matzek 2 FINAL
Arizona - LP: V. Nuno 0
Chicago Cubs - LP: T. Wada 2 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: M. Gonzales 13
Los Angeles - LP: J. Wright 1 FINAL
San Diego - WP: T. Stauffer 2
Milwaukee - LP: M. Fiers 1 FINAL
San Francisco - WP: J. Peavy 3
Oakland - LP: J. Samardzija 0 FINAL
LA Angels - WP: Y. Herrera 2
Washington - WP: S. Strasburg 3 FINAL
Seattle - LP: R. Elias 1
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Connecticut 10
(6) Jacksonville St 7 FINAL
(8) Michigan State 45
Bowling Green 31 FINAL
Western Ky 59
TX-San Antonio 27 FINAL
Houston 7
Colorado State 31 FINAL
Colorado 17
Arizona 58
Penn State 26 FINAL
UCF 24
Troy 10 FINAL
UAB 48
Virginia 20
Western Mich 34 FINAL
Purdue 43
(5) Ohio State 34 FINAL
Navy 17
Appalachian St 14 FINAL
Michigan 52
Ga Southern 23 FINAL
NC State 24
Boston College 30 FINAL
Massachusetts 7
West Virginia 23 FINAL
(2) Alabama 33
Rice 17 FINAL
(17) Notre Dame 48
(10) South Dakota St 18 FINAL
(24) Missouri 38
Fla Atlantic 7 FINAL
(22) Nebraska 55
California 31 FINAL
Northwestern 24
Marshall 42 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 27
UC Davis 0 FINAL
(11) Stanford 45
Arkansas 21 FINAL
(6) Auburn 45
(16) Clemson 21 FINAL
(12) Georgia 45
Liberty 29 FINAL
(23) North Carolina 56
Ohio U 17 FINAL
Kent State 14
Louisiana Tech 16 FINAL
(4) Oklahoma 48
Stephen F Austin 16 FINAL
(20) Kansas State 55
Fresno State 13 FINAL
(15) USC 52
Southern Miss 0 FINAL
Miss State 49
Texas-El Paso 31 FINAL
New Mexico 24
North Texas 7 FINAL
Texas 38
(1) Florida State 37 FINAL
Oklahoma State 31
(14) Wisconsin 24 FINAL
(13) LSU 28
Idaho 0 Postponed
Florida 0
South Dakota 13 FINAL
(3) Oregon 62
(25) Washington 17 FINAL
Hawaii 16
Utah State 6:00 PM
SMU 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
SMU 9/6/14 11:00 AM
North Texas
Fla Atlantic 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(2) Alabama
Buffalo 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Arkansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(8) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(22) Nebraska
Central Mich 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Akron 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Western Ill 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(14) Wisconsin
(20) Kansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
(4) Oklahoma 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky 9/6/14 11:00 AM
SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(16) Clemson
Navy 9/6/14 12:00 PM
UAB 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Miss State
South Alabama 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Kent State
New Mexico St 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Colorado 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Fresno State 9/6/14 2:00 PM
(1) Eastern Wash 9/6/14 2:00 PM
(25) Washington
(15) USC 9/6/14 2:30 PM
(11) Stanford
Ohio U 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Middle Tennessee 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Northern Ill 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Missouri State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Ball State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Maryland 9/6/14 2:30 PM
So Florida
Eastern Mich 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Georgia Tech 9/6/14 3:00 PM
(18) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Old Dominion 9/6/14 5:00 PM
NC State
(8) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(19) Arizona State 9/6/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico
Louisiana Tech 9/6/14 6:00 PM
San Jose St 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(6) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Duke 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Idaho 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(17) Sam Houston St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(13) LSU
Michigan 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(21) Texas A&M
Northwestern St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
BYU 9/6/14 6:30 PM
Citadel 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(1) Florida State
San Diego St 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Virginia Tech 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(5) Ohio State
Memphis 9/6/14 9:00 PM
(7) UCLA
Colorado State 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Boise State
Air Force 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Oregon State 9/6/14 9:30 PM
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Colorado 0 FINAL
Seattle 1
New England 3 FINAL
Toronto FC 0
Columbus 0 FINAL
Montreal 2
FC Dallas 0 FINAL
Chicago 1
Real Salt Lake 1 FINAL
San Jose 1
Portland 3 FINAL
Vancouver FC 0
Ottawa 10 FINAL
Montreal 20
Winnipeg 3:00 PM
Chicago 70 FINAL
Indiana 77
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question