If you are a dyed-in-the-Under-Armour swamp rat like me, addicted to quack, you owe yourself a duck hunting trip to Central North Dakota. It's the best med for the head you can self-prescribe. You'll experience the soul-soothing raw beauty of the prairie; the warmest people west of the Mississippi; the best waterfowl show not on TV; and, as the Tundra tailgate photograph proves, meat for the pot. I just got back from the Sheridan/Wells/Kidder County area north of the Interstate and I'm feeling better already.
This is what I saw: Ducks. By the thousands. Mallards outnumbering even the plentiful gadwall. Last Monday afternoon we filled early but just sat, mesmerized, by the sight of hundred-mallard flocks spiraling into a nearby barley field. Like feathered tornadoes. I did not see many divers. But pintails, widgeon, shoveler, and blue-winged teal were there in truly impressive numbers. Geese. The snows and blues weren't down yet but Canadas were ever-present. And cacklers. Those fine-table-fare cacklers providing nourishment for the hungry hunter.
Water levels surprisingly near normal given our local drought. Down? Yes, but only a few yards of mud ringing the typical prairie pothole. And most bottoms are like walking down a sidewalk. Important for a hunter of my age.
The ranchers there are, for the most part, glad to see duck hunters. There is posting but I did not find getting permission to be a problem. Two grain producers told me the number of local and imported hunters is way down this year -- a curious turn of events. It is a 400+ mile hump out there and Interstate 94 gas prices were approaching $4. But what price nirvana? Just do it.