Anderson: Duck shack has real-life view

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 7, 2012 - 10:15 PM

Pursuing waterfowl from a North Dakota retreat offers a chance for deep thoughts on the farm bill and more.

hide

Kirk MacKenzie and Sally checked out just one marsh in a complex of wetlands and farmland that MacKenzie owns in North Dakota. “I bought this place as a defense mechanism, in a way,” he said.

Photo: Dennis Anderson, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

IN CENTRAL NORTH DAKOTA - Settling this rough country eliminated for pioneers any notion of personal time off. A haven of suffering and isolation, Dakota Territory was in its infancy a real character builder, a fact the Arikara, Mandan, Hidatsa and Chippewa took for granted. Only with great reluctance did this land finally bend to horse-drawn plows, its transition from rock-filled prairie to cropland a real backbreaker.

Yet the other evening while the howls of coyotes closed in around us, we were comfortable enough in Kirk MacKenzie's shack. There was no television, and in one corner bent over a hot stove was Ryan Heiniger, while out back Kirk busied himself grilling. Slackers three, Ron Stromstad, Jim Ringelman and I awaited dinner around a pine table.

If it's October and you have the chance to spend a night or two in a duck shack, you'll find deep thoughts come easily. Mostly, the five of us talked about waterfowl. Politics occasionally reared its ugly head, but the effect was unsettling. Meanwhile the bright moon outside had an arc light's impression on the surrounding grasses, hills and potholes. Sally, Kirk's Labrador, assessed all of this keenly and snoozed.

"I found this property on the Internet,'' Kirk said. "It was advertised as farmland. But when I asked if there were any wetlands or potholes on it, the real-estate agent said, 'Yes, quite a few.' So I came to look.''

Already by then Kirk, semi-retired and living in the Twin Cities, had seen his share of good North Dakota duck hunting. Acquiring a respite in the Lower 48's last best place for waterfowl never was about piling more birds at his feet. He saw this country for the first time a half-century ago, when he was just 15, and immersion in the state's cattails, low clouds, decoys, northwest winds and cupped wings changed him forever.

"I'd never had a duck shack before,'' Kirk said. "I bought this place as a defense mechanism, in a way. Things have been changing in North Dakota. Public hunting areas get hunted pretty hard. And there is more and more posting of private land. So I decided to look for a place of my own.''

Dinner was served, and over it discussion turned to the federal farm bill, now hung up in Congress.

Ron, Ryan and Jim work for Ducks Unlimited out of Bismarck, and their preference, personal and professional, is that the Senate's version of the bill is passed and signed into law soon after the November election, regardless who wins the presidency.

Most farmers want this as well, and some already have marched on the nation's Capitol demanding it. But Washington is a funny place, and it's a roll of the dice.

"We understand the need for crop insurance and support it,'' Jim said. "But it's important that its availability is tied to conservation programs such as Swampbuster and Sodbuster. That's how it is in the Senate version. If that doesn't happen, with commodity prices as high as they are, some farmers -- perhaps many -- will take the insurance but opt out of federal conservation programs. Then we'll see more wetlands drained and more grasslands plowed up.''

Kirk is himself a farmer, after a fashion. Of the original 920 acres he purchased, about 300 are enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program, with 320 more in crop. "The rest is in grass and duck sloughs,'' he said, as are about 300 adjoining acres he subsequently bought.

Come morning, Ryan, Kirk and I settled into a wide band of cattails overlooking a dozen decoys on the leeward end of a pothole measuring perhaps 10 acres. The gusts that rampaged from the south would be called a gale anywhere else. But in North Dakota, where even on mildly windblown days locking ball caps on sideways is a good idea, these were mere breezes.

Night adjoined day. As it did, we saw a few flocks of mallards. Also there were smatterings of gadwall and blue-winged teal and a squadron of fully plumed drake bluebills. But this was not a particularly ducky morning, and only now and then did we pull up on birds. Ducks that fell, Sally the good dog retrieved.

Few preambles to breakfast stir the appetite like pulling off wet waders, which we did at midmorning. The coyotes by then were long gone for the day. The moon had set. Over eggs and sausage, we laid a few more world problems on the table, solving each.

This was at a duck shack, in October, and we were part of all of it.

Dennis Anderson's Twitter name is @dennisstrib danderson@startribune.com

  • 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

Chicago 11/27/14 11:30 AM
Detroit
Philadelphia 11/27/14 3:30 PM
Dallas
Seattle 11/27/14 7:30 PM
San Francisco
Cleveland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Washington 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Tennessee 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
NY Giants 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Cincinnati 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Oakland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
New Orleans 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Carolina 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Arizona 11/30/14 3:05 PM
Atlanta
New England 11/30/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Denver 11/30/14 7:30 PM
Kansas City
Miami 12/1/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
Atlanta 106 FINAL
Washington 102
Golden State 114 FINAL
Miami 97
Detroit 86 FINAL
Milwaukee 98
Sacramento 99 FINAL
New Orleans 89
Chicago 97 4th Qtr 1:59
Denver 108
Winnipeg 4 FINAL
Columbus 2
Ottawa 3 FINAL(SO)
St. Louis 2
Los Angeles 3 FINAL(SO)
Nashville 4
Edmonton 2 FINAL
Dallas 3
Colorado 3 3rd Prd 7:28
Arizona 3
New Jersey 0 2nd Prd 12:29
Vancouver 1
Calgary 0 2nd Prd 10:31
Anaheim 2
Fresno State 52 FINAL
East Carolina 58
Morgan State 73 FINAL
Elon 74
Purdue 82 FINAL
Missouri 61
Hawaii 62 FINAL
Marist 55
Liberty 57 FINAL
North Florida 77
MD-Eastern Shore 55 FINAL
Bucknell 58
Western Carolina 70 FINAL
Georgia State 85
BYU 121 FINAL
Chaminade 85
Evansville 62 FINAL
Green Bay 64
Alabama 76 FINAL
Arizona State 71
UT Martin 74 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 56
SE Missouri St 54 FINAL
Bowling Green 62
NC Central 50 FINAL
Cincinnati 59
Fair-Dickinson 47 FINAL
Columbia 57
Citadel 55 FINAL
Florida State 66
Houston 63 FINAL
Harvard 84
William Peace 71 FINAL
High Point 88
Texas-Arlington 44 FINAL
Kentucky 92
St Francis-NY 60 FINAL
La Salle 73
Boston Univ 68 FINAL
New Hampshire 75
Chicago State 57 FINAL
Oakland 70
Ark-Pine Bluff 60 FINAL
Ohio 69
Hartford 54 FINAL
Quinnipiac 50
Saint Peters 68 FINAL
Rutgers 50
Jackson State 71 FINAL
St Bonaventure 79
Long Island 70 FINAL
Saint Josephs 74
Hofstra 70 FINAL
South Florida 71
Western Ky 61 FINAL
Stony Brook 71
Loyola-Maryland 37 FINAL
Syracuse 70
Penn 67 FINAL
Temple 76
Detroit 82 FINAL
Toledo 79
Tennessee St 36 FINAL
Virginia 79
Northern Iowa 73 FINAL
Virginia Tech 54
Western Ill 49 FINAL
William & Mary 83
Ohio Valley 54 FINAL
Wofford 82
Toccoa Falls 40 FINAL
Presbyterian 63
Mount Ida 57 FINAL
UMass Lowell 102
Kansas State 68 FINAL
Arizona 72
Binghamton 54 FINAL
Army 80
Central Arkansas 67 FINAL
Char Southern 80
Howard 68 FINAL
UMBC 54
VA Commonwealth 77 FINAL
Oregon 63
Arkansas 78 FINAL
SMU 72
Jacksonville St 67 FINAL
Alabama A&M 61
TX A&M-CC 38 FINAL
Bradley 52
Eastern Ill 53 FINAL
Creighton 75
St Xavier 76 FINAL
Ill-Chicago 87
Northern Ariz 53 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 65
Nebraska Omaha 67 FINAL
Nebraska 80
Akron 72 FINAL
Penn State 78
NC A&T 54 FINAL
Saint Louis 57
Columbia International 55 FINAL
SC State 92
Troy 70 FINAL
Southern Miss 72
St Francis-PA 46 FINAL
Texas 78
Northwestern St 64 FINAL
Texas Tech 75
Loyola-Chicago 71 FINAL
TX-San Antonio 57
Southern U 59 FINAL
Tulane 74
Norfolk State 53 FINAL
Vanderbilt 63
Jarvis Christian 65 FINAL
Abilene Christian 91
MN-Crookston 63 FINAL
North Dakota St 64
Lamar 63 FINAL
Arkansas State 58
IUPUI 60 FINAL
Drake 73
San Francisco 47 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 62
Miami-Florida 77 FINAL
Charlotte 74
Air Force 53 FINAL
Colorado 68
Boise State 86 FINAL
Idaho 75
Louisiana 76 FINAL
Oral Roberts 52
Buffalo 80 FINAL
Grand Canyon 64
Maryland 66 2nd Half 3:00
Iowa State 54
Northwestern 40 2nd Half 7:28
Miami-Ohio 38
Bristol University 40 2nd Half 10:34
Sacramento St 67
Villanova 33 2nd Half 17:48
Michigan 20
Pittsburgh 25 2nd Half 19:33
San Diego St 42
Cal State Fullerton 8 1st Half 12:58
USC 12
Delaware 5 1st Half 12:44
Stanford 14
Ohio U 24 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 21
LSU 11/27/14 6:30 PM
Texas A&M
(6) TCU 11/27/14 6:30 PM
Texas
Northern Ill 11/28/14 10:00 AM
Western Mich
Nebraska 11/28/14 11:00 AM
Iowa
Western Ky 11/28/14 11:00 AM
(19) Marshall
UCF 11/28/14 11:00 AM
So Florida
Houston 11/28/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Akron 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Kent State
Ball State 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Bowling Green
Buffalo 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Massachusetts
Toledo 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Arkansas 11/28/14 1:30 PM
(17) Missouri
Navy 11/28/14 2:00 PM
South Alabama
(13) Arizona State 11/28/14 2:30 PM
(12) Arizona
Stanford 11/28/14 2:30 PM
(9) UCLA
(21) Colorado State 11/28/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
Virginia 11/28/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
East Carolina 11/28/14 7:30 PM
Tulsa
North Texas 11/29/14 11:00 AM
TX-San Antonio
Old Dominion 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Fla Atlantic
(16) Georgia Tech 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(8) Georgia
Kentucky 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(24) Louisville
So Carolina 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(23) Clemson
West Virginia 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
Rice 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Louisiana Tech
Michigan 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(7) Ohio State
Purdue 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Indiana
Illinois 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Northwestern
Cincinnati 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Temple
NC State 11/29/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Syracuse 11/29/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Louisiana 11/29/14 11:30 AM
Troy
Utah 11/29/14 12:00 PM
Colorado
Texas State 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Idaho 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Appalachian St
Wyoming 11/29/14 2:00 PM
New Mexico
New Mexico St 11/29/14 2:00 PM
Arkansas State
UAB 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(4) Miss State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(18) Ole Miss
Notre Dame 11/29/14 2:30 PM
USC
(10) Michigan State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Penn State
(22) Minnesota 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(14) Wisconsin
(5) Baylor 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Texas Tech
Florida 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
Rutgers 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Maryland
San Jose St 11/29/14 2:30 PM
San Diego St
Tennessee 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Kansas 11/29/14 3:00 PM
(11) Kansas State
Connecticut 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Memphis
BYU 11/29/14 3:30 PM
California
ULM 11/29/14 5:00 PM
Ga Southern
Middle Tennessee 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Hawaii 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Fresno State
Wake Forest 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Duke
Pittsburgh 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Miami-Florida
(15) Auburn 11/29/14 6:45 PM
(2) Alabama
(3) Oregon 11/29/14 7:00 PM
Oregon State
Utah State 11/29/14 9:15 PM
(25) Boise State
Washington 11/29/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Nevada 11/29/14 9:30 PM
UNLV
Hamilton 11/30/14 5:00 PM
Calgary
Belmont 55 FINAL
Kent State 58
Robert Morris 75 FINAL
Coppin State 58
UMKC 48 FINAL
Western Ill 71
Manhattan 48 FINAL
La Salle 61
UC Santa Barbara 34 FINAL
Arizona 61
Santa Clara 69 FINAL
LSU 67
Tulsa 67 FINAL
Texas Southern 64
SE Missouri St 57 FINAL
Ole Miss 58
Air Force 35 FINAL
Army 79
Towson 59 FINAL
UMBC 54
St Bonaventure 56 FINAL
Penn State 54
Texas-El Paso 43 FINAL
Kansas State 72
Cheyney 38 FINAL
MD-Eastern Shore 63
Johnson C. Smith 45 FINAL
NC A&T 76
Winthrop 71 FINAL
NC Central 63
USC Upstate 50 FINAL
SC State 60
Quinnipiac 52 FINAL
(2) Notre Dame 112
Buffalo 54 FINAL
(8) Duke 88
Washington St 74 FINAL
Hampton 60
Bryant 67 FINAL
Brown 60
Vermont 75 FINAL
Central Conn St 77
St Francis-NY 50 FINAL
NJIT 57
(21) Rutgers 81 FINAL
Wagner 53
IUPU-Ft Wayne 63 FINAL
Coastal Carolina 90
Fairleigh Dickinson 66 FINAL
Monmouth 71
Jacksonville 59 FINAL
UCF 71
SIU-Edwardsville 76 FINAL
IUPUI 87
Duquesne 89 FINAL
Howard 63
Fordham 49 FINAL
Delaware 44
Saint Josephs 63 FINAL
Drexel 76
Liberty 62 FINAL
Elon 73
New Hampshire 39 FINAL
Penn 74
Valparaiso 65 FINAL
Akron 100
Grambling 64 FINAL
Georgia Tech 97
Western Ky 67 FINAL
(12) Louisville 89
Arizona State 65 FINAL
Miami-Florida 61
Charleston Southern 64 FINAL
Florida 92
Georgia Southern 52 FINAL
(22) Georgia 93
Tenn Tech 67 FINAL
Mercer 73
Hillsdale 56 FINAL
Eastern Michigan 73
Ohio U 77 FINAL
Northern Ky 38
Gardner-Webb 69 FINAL
Appalachian St 77
Bucknell 54 FINAL
Youngstown St 69
Lafayette 66 FINAL
Rider 48
Lehigh 70 FINAL
Saint Peters 58
George Mason 79 FINAL
Navy 84
High Point 57 FINAL
Davidson 76
Old Dominion 69 FINAL
Virginia Tech 62
SW Assemblies 57 FINAL
Houston Baptist 85
LSU-Alexandria 58 FINAL
Northwestern St 86
Wofford 55 FINAL
Jacksonville St 70
ULM 46 FINAL
(25) Miss State 80
Morgan State 43 FINAL
(20) Oklahoma St 73
Lyon 43 FINAL
Central Arkansas 59
Lamar 72 FINAL
Texas State 79
Mobile 47 FINAL
SE Louisiana 74
St Edwards 56 FINAL
Stephen F Austin 65
Lipscomb 71 FINAL
Murray State 74
UAB 61 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 51
Northern Iowa 45 FINAL
(17) Iowa 73
Southern U 62 FINAL
Minnesota 107
Harvard 79 FINAL
Holy Cross 76
Colorado 77 FINAL
Denver 49
Portland State 56 FINAL
Oregon 63
Montana State 64 FINAL
San Diego 79
Idaho 77 FINAL
Wyoming 66
Pepperdine 47 2nd Half 11:45
Cal Poly 44
Long Beach St 44 2nd Half 12:13
Boise State 37
Nevada 14 1st Half 10:05
San Francisco 14
Yale 10:59 PM
Alaska-Anchorage
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