Dennis Anderson: School's in session, even if it looks like a Montana duck hunt

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 29, 2012 - 11:21 PM

On a trip to reunite son and retriever, it is learned that some fellows get an education where they also find fabulous hunting.

hide

Against a mountainous backdrop, Garret Visser of Sullivan’s Island, S.C., Cody Melchior of Oakland, Calif., Paden Holman of Roswell, Ga., and Trevor Anderson, Dennis Anderson’s son, opened the Montana waterfowl season.

Photo: Dennis Anderson, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

IN WESTERN MONTANA - Whether ducks that soar along the Pacific Flyway appreciate the sun rising over mountains is unknown. Surely when they begin their autumn flights in Alaska or British Columbia and rifle southward ahead of low pressure they encounter craggy landscapes their Central and Mississippi flyway counterparts can only imagine. I was thinking about this Saturday morning as the rising sun cast a fiery halo behind the Mission Mountains in the far distance.

You could say I was hunting. But more to the point I was tagging along, a delivery boy on assignment. My son Trevor attends college in Missoula, about an hour or so distant, and he had called home recently for his dog, seeking a duck retriever. Unspoken but common knowledge in our family was that Trevor also missed his buddy at the foot of his bed at night.

So it was a few days ago that en route to a North Dakota duck hunt I diverted farther west, a black Lab in the back seat, feet up, snoozing. You really have to hand it to dogs: They know how to live. Anyway, I arrived in Missoula on Friday, just in advance of the opening of Montana's 2012 waterfowl season.

Trevor likes and enjoys people from Montana. But you wouldn't know it by the fellows he gathered with him in a blind Saturday morning. Garret Visser is from Sullivan's Island, S.C., Cody Melchior is from Oakland, Calif., and Paden Holman calls Roswell, Ga., home. They say they're in Montana for the education. But collectively they seem to own vast storehouses full of rods, reels, guns, drift boats and river rafts. Yes, occasionally, reference is made to a study assignment or class. But more often, and with more animation, they banter about adventures on the Beaverhead, Missouri or Bitterroot rivers, or the Elk River in British Columbia.

So perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised that Trevor and Cody -- and Ben, the black Lab -- slept at the marsh's edge Friday night, in Trevor's truck, in hopes of securing "the best spot'' when shooting began Saturday morning.

Enticing as that option sounded, I elected instead to sleep in a motel, and was ready at 5 a.m. when Paden and Garret picked me up for the hour or so drive to meet Trevor and Cody.

"We got here about midnight, but there was a guy at our spot already, so we're taking the next best spot,'' Trevor reported.

Except for the mountains that would reveal themselves with the coming sun, we could have been in Minnesota. The shallow lake we overlooked seemed no different than those in Kandiyohi or Chippewa or Stevens counties.

• • •

If you can't find time to hunt ducks in the Pacific Flyway, you're too busy.

Unlike the Mississippi and Atlantic flyways, which are allotted 60-day seasons by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with six-bird limits, hunters in the Pacific Flyway are granted 107 days of bird chasing, with seven-bird daily limits. Two hen mallards, two redheads, two pintails and one canvasback are among species restrictions -- similar to Minnesota's. Otherwise it's Katie-bar-the-door, with seven bluebills allowed daily, for example, compared to four in the Mississippi Flyway.

Fundamentally, the season length and bag limit disparities exist because hunters in the central part of the country -- the Mississippi Flyway -- kill more ducks than hunters in the other three flyways combined.

In 2010, for example, Mississippi Flyway waterfowlers harvested some 2.2 million mallards, compared to only 900,000 in the Pacific Flyway. And bluebills? In 2011, only 22,000 were dropped in the Pacific Flyway, while Mississippi Flyway hunters killed 115,000.

Like a comptroller, Trevor assessed these numbers with great precision while making a college recommendation to his mother and me a couple of years back.

"The cost of tuition, room and board are important considerations,'' he said. "I'll also need shells.''

Trevor also credits his choice of schools for the locked hunting-gun storage it offers in dormitories. Last year, as a freshman, he recalls sometimes walking out of his dorm dressed in camouflage with a cased gun under his arm while other students were just coming in from a night of revelry.

Turns out, other students of similarly wayward sporting interests were also enrolled, including Cody, Paden and Garret.

This year, to their great pleasure, they all live off campus, and their aforementioned equipment storehouses have now been expanded to include Ben the black Labrador.

Out front. Out front.

Daylight had coalesced beneath a sky opaque with clouds and smoke. For weeks, if not months, forest fires have burned in the Bitterroots to the south and west of Missoula, fostering a haze that on some days impairs not only sight but breathing.

Yet the knot of blue-winged teal that approached the guys' decoys seemed clear enough.

In the classroom, Cody and Garret study wildlife biology, while Trevor and Paden are business majors.

Years from now they'll remember -- or won't -- all or part of their specific academic nstruction.

But they'll never forget walking from that marsh on opening day of the 2012 Montana waterfowl season, 17 ducks slung over their shoulders, the evening's dinner in hand.

  • 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

Cleveland 86 FINAL
Indiana 93
Washington 81 FINAL
Philadelphia 89
Golden State 113 FINAL
Toronto 89
New York 90 4th Qtr 1:35
Detroit 95
Orlando 88 FINAL
Atlanta 95
Charlotte 98 FINAL
Boston 106
LA Clippers 69 4th Qtr 12:00
Memphis 62
Brooklyn 77 4th Qtr 10:25
Houston 76
Miami 82 4th Qtr 11:03
New Orleans 76
Minnesota 71 4th Qtr 10:25
Chicago 75
Utah 42 2nd Qtr 4:49
Denver 28
San Antonio 9:00 PM
Sacramento
Milwaukee 9:30 PM
LA Lakers
Oklahoma City 9:30 PM
Portland
Boston 3 FINAL(OT)
New Jersey 2
Calgary 1 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
Washington 0 FINAL
Carolina 3
Chicago 0 3rd Prd 6:34
Tampa Bay 3
Colorado 1 2nd Prd 5:32
Dallas 2
Los Angeles 9:00 PM
Anaheim
Siena 63 FINAL
Quinnipiac 73
Harvard 49 FINAL
Cornell 57
Penn 69 FINAL
Brown 75
Fairfield 65 FINAL
Canisius 72
Manhattan 75 FINAL
Iona 79
Saint Peters 67 FINAL
Marist 69
Princeton 60 FINAL
Yale 81
Ohio 53 2nd Half 1:44
Akron 65
Dartmouth 71 2nd Half 3:53
Columbia 57
Valparaiso 9:00 PM
Cleveland State
Louisiana Tech 75 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 88
Seton Hall 77 FINAL
Xavier 60
Cornell 54 FINAL
Harvard 60
Yale 49 FINAL
(14) Princeton 67
Elon 51 FINAL
Drexel 54
Northeastern 47 FINAL
James Madison 82
St Johns 60 FINAL
Butler 49
Creighton 71 FINAL
Georgetown 62
Brown 58 FINAL
Penn 75
Columbia 50 FINAL
Dartmouth 60
Canisius 54 FINAL
Siena 58
St Josephs Brooklyn 35 FINAL
NJIT 78
Western Carolina 86 FINAL
UNC Greensboro 80
Colorado 66 FINAL
Arizona 51
Southern Ill 64 2nd Half 2:41
Bradley 60
Drake 50 2nd Half 4:19
Wichita State 71
Indiana State 71 FINAL
Evansville 53
Illinois State 49 2nd Half 1:54
Loyola-Chicago 63
Northern Iowa 70 FINAL
Missouri State 72
Utah 32 2nd Half 12:18
(10) Arizona State 20
Providence 39 2nd Half 10:49
Villanova 48
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

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

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close