In North Dakota, in fact, it's often said by residents there that a Minnesota waterfowler easily gives himself away — because more often than not, he's pulling a boat. Most North Dakota hunters, by contrast, keep to fields, passes or other landscapes that are drier than they are wet.
My two sons and I have been getting a new duck boat ready for the season. Actually, it's not a new boat. It's a Montgomery Ward jon boat that dates in origin perhaps to the early '80s, and perhaps even the 1970s. I paid $200 for it about 25 years ago.
It's a good boat in that it's shallower than many jons built today. I say that having looked at a number of the new models, and drooled over many of them. Alumacraft, for instance, makes a wide variety of jons that work nicely for duck hunting. G3, owned by Yamaha, also has a supurb offering. I may test one or more boats from these lines sometime in the future and report back.
For now, there's our jon, shown in the accompanying photo, with a fresh camou paint job. There are a lot of ways this can be done, some cheaper than others. Our method — actually, the boys did the painting — was cheaper than most. I simply bought a can of Acetone from a hardware store and used this to clean off assorted scum on the boat (wear protective gloves when you use this stuff.) Then the boys, using about a dozen cans of camou spray paint I bought at Fleet Farm for about $3.79 a can, mixed tan, black and natural green to create the camou you see.
The colors are specially mixed to create a "flat'' non-glare appearance.
I think the boat looks pretty good, though if you're looking to do this yourself, you can spend more money, and do a more detailed job. Stencil kits are available at Cabela's, Gander Mountain and elsewhere, along with paint that is similar to the kind we bought at Fleet Farm. Chances are using these kits will give you a more professional look. But I'm not sure they'll hide the boat any better from ducks.
We're not done with the boat. As you can see we've got a mud motor on it, in this case a 2000 Go Devil long tail. We bought it from a friend who wasn't using it, and have learned quite a bit about maintaining these rigs in the time since. More on that later.
As for the boat, we're going to rig it with a blind. We've done quite a bit of research about how to do this best, and think we have a plan that won't cost a lot of money. What I don't want is a cheap aluminum frame setup that can't take the abuse it will have to take from my two sons and me and our dogs.
I have written before about a different boat I bought for duck hunting, a 15 foot, 11 inch Peenoe Sport Canoe. This is a great boat, made by Spyderboats.com in Arkansas. But I've decided instead to stick with our old jon boat for duck hunting — its size will better accommodate the three of us and a dog — and now have the Peenoe, reluctantly, for sale.
On a related subject, I was in Alaska recently hunting black brant, a sea goose, at the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge on the end of the Alaskan Peninsula. (For story and video, click here.) The limit on these great birds is only two a day, four in possession. Yet even with these low limits, we killed quite a few banded birds, a rarity.
Since my return, I've heard from the Fish and Wildlife Service and from a native Minnesota biologist, Chris Nicolai, now living in Nevada who might be the only waterfowl researcher to take his master's and doctorate studying brant. He moved to Alaska in 1997 to study brant.
"We might have as many as one in nine brant banded,'' Chris reports.
Here, from the Fish and Wildlife Service, courtesy Bruce Casler, who is stationed in Cold Bay, Alaska, is the history of the banded brant we shot. Notice how old some of these birds are.
"I do not have a record for this band, which suggests it was deployed this summer on the Yukon Delta. The Black color indicates that it was banded there.''
2) 3617-19190; U23 (white band, black letters)
"White U23: Banded on Yukon Delta in July 1997 as an Adult Male and seen previously in winter/spring on Vancouver Island in winter 1998-1999 and 2000-2001.''
3) 3617-32647; 506
"Black-506: Banded on Yukon Delta in July 2006 as a Juvenile Female and not seen since banding.''
4) 1347-58566; Y21 (blue band, white letters)
"Blue Y21: Banded while molting on Banks Island in the Canadian Arctic in July 1993 as a Adult Male and seen previously breeding on the Yukon Delta in 1994.''
5) 3617-28993; Y67 (black band, white letters)
"Black Y67: Banded on Yukon Delta in July 2004 as a Adult Female and not seen since banding.''
Interested, finally, in where ducks banded in Minnesota and the Dakotas are recovered? Click here.