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.


Kansas City - J. Guthrie 7:07 PM
San Francisco - T. Hudson
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans 10/30/14 7:25 PM
Dallas 6:00 PM
New York 6:30 PM
San Antonio 7:00 PM
Miami 7:00 PM
Minnesota 7:00 PM
Phoenix 8:00 PM
Sacramento 9:00 PM
LA Lakers
Denver 9:30 PM
Golden State
Portland 9:30 PM
LA Clippers
Dallas 6:00 PM
New Jersey
Tampa Bay 7:00 PM
Vancouver 8:00 PM
Carolina 8:30 PM
Columbus 9:00 PM
Connecticut 21 FINAL
(18) East Carolina 31
Miami-Florida 30 FINAL
Virginia Tech 6
So Florida 0 1st Qtr 13:59
Cincinnati 0
Troy 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 9:00 PM
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
(2) Florida State 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Troy 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
Cincinnati 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Purdue 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
(17) Oklahoma 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Iowa State
Oklahoma State 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
(10) TCU 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(22) West Virginia
Texas 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Texas Tech
Northwestern 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Maryland 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Penn State
Houston 7:00 PM
Montreal 7 2:19
Ottawa 7
Saskatchewan 8:30 PM
Hamilton 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Brt Columbia 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton 10/31/14 6:30 PM
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Toronto 11/2/14 11:00 AM
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