Hunting and fishing in Minnesota Live

This past Saturday marked the opening of the waterfowl hunting season. We joined two hunters in the field and asked members of our Public Insight Network for their favorite hunting stories. You can read them here and share your own!

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    "In Ann Arbor, about 1956, was pheasant hunting for the first time.  My companion, a seasoned hunter, saw a flash of green in the shrubbery, and shot ... a drake mallard.  He bought a duck stamp next day." — Evan Hazard, Bemidji, Minn.
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    "The year I thought I shot five wood ducks in one shot and turned out to be five filthy mergansers." — Mark Hayes, Buffalo, Minn.
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    "I was hunting with my father and a flock of mallards came right into the decoys, I scored by first "double", I was very excited that I shot two mallards with two shots, my Dad calmly said, 'I have three on this side of the boat with three shots!' I was once again out done by the pro!" — Wally Shelstad, Wright County
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    "The great thing about hunting is that every outing creates more stories. One story in particular comes to mind.  Many years ago, I went duck hunting with my oldest brother and my dad at our favorite spot on some public land in Sterns Co.  We spent the early hours shooting in the general direction of the ducks that flew by, but I don’t think we had much to show for our efforts.
    That day also happened to be the pheasant opener.  So, later on when the official time came, we doffed our camo and donned our blaze orange.  Then we stepped out of the swamp and into the surrounding fields for pheasants.
     We coursed the field three across — my dad on the far right, my brother and his golden retriever in the middle, and me on the left.  After about an hour of walking back and forth, we were approaching the swamp again, not far from our blind, when a bird jumped up right in front of me.
    When pheasant hunting, you can only shoot the roosters. So, being the son of an engineer, my mind quickly runs through a decision tree: Rooster - Yes or No?  If no, then don’t shoot. If yes, then shoot. The bias is not to shoot. Well, if this was some ugly pheasant jumping up out of the waist-high grass, it surely wasn’t a colorfully feathered rooster. I didn’t shoot. I could tell the same process ran in a split second through my brother’s head. He didn’t shoot. In another split second, from what seemed out of nowhere, a shot boomed and the bird right in front of me dropped. My jaw dropped with it. I turned to my right and saw my brother, also dumbfounded, looking at where the bird had dropped.  We both thought the same thing — ‘That thing was a rooster?!’ The shot in fact came from about 20 yards further to my right.  Beyond my brother, with a full-faced smile my father was bounding through the grass toward the bird, delighted as much with the shock he gave his sons as with his feat, saying, 'That’s my duck I winged this morning!' It wasn’t easy for my dad to stop teasing us about not getting a duck that was right in front of both of us. Still, it was another great story — even if my brother and I were made the fools." James Van Sloun, Minneapolis
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    "Hunting is my heritage and is a very important tradition and in both my private and professional life. ... Getting up early, helping with the milking chores, and then sneaking through the woods behind the barn with my dog to jump-shoot puddle ducks like wood ducks, blue-winged teal and mallards. And every once in a while I managed to bring one or two home." — Blane Klemek, Becida, Minn.
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    "I can hunt from my back door as I live along a wetland in the northwoods. I don't go far. Years ago, I was walking with my shotgun in hand, along the banks of the creek that flows through our place, when two mallards suddenly flew up. I instinctively swung the gun up and shot them both, one then the other. 
    What I completely forgot was that I was walking near the corral where we had just put our Arabian mare and foal the day before, and at the shots they bolted through the poplar rail fence, the mare striking the wood rails with her chest, breaking them, and the foal, somersaulting end over end and back up on its feet, both of them at full gallop like a gymnasts completing an exercise. I felt sooo bad! 
    I had never given them a thought, so entranced as I was possibly seeing a duck to shoot. 
     
    I let the horses run their fears out. They had stopped in our open field, eyes wide, ears erect, nostrils wide open. I let them graze out there for an hour or so before I approached quietly with a bucket of oats and a lead rope. Miraculously, neither were hurt, upon examination, no cuts. The fence was built of the right stuff, for if they had been in the west corral, where we had used black spruce rails, instead of soft poplar, the story would've been far different. I think that was the last time I ever hunted ducks, over 20 years ago." — Steven Reynolds, Roseau County
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    "There are so many stories, so many great experiences with friends, families and duck dogs. There have been so many great days, with weather, wind and waterfowl. There have been so many great places — quiet, secluded, lonely lakes,  rivers and sloughs. All of those factors are integral to a great hunt. And I've been fortunate enough to have experienced hundreds of mornings in the duck blind, and a few mornings where all those factors have come together perfectly for a memorable hunt.
    It's hard to pinpoint one exact experience, but if I had to choose just one favorite story it would be a hunt from late October 2002, with my father and my first great duck dog, Lena, a golden retriever. We hauled our canoe and a couple dozen decoys into a remote landing on the upper Mississippi near Bemidji. It was a classic duck day — heavy clouds scudding overhead on a grey day. The wind was howling. A few stray snowflakes were swirling down in the pre-dawn darkness. We put the canoe into the river, and paddled in silence through thick rice beds, and at each turn wave upon wave of mallards would erupt. Hundreds and hundreds of them. Maybe thousands. We would have that entire stretch of river to ourselves that morning — it was just too hard to access it, and too remote for anyone else to be there. After a mile canoe ride, we set out our decoys in a wide spot in the river next to an impenetrable wild rice bed. For the next few minutes before legal shooting light came, we just sat back and watched as clouds of mallards swarmed overhead. When legal shooting arrived, we loaded our guns, and proceeded to have a good old-fashioned mallard hunt, picking only the nicest drake mallards and a few late-migrating wood ducks that just didn't want to leave the rice. The wind and snow kept the birds in tight, and they decoyed perfectly. It didn't take long before we were nearing our limit, and the last duck of the day belonged to my father. Suddenly a drake pintail showed up right in front of us, and with his old double-barrel he hit it once, then twice, before the pintail caught the wind fair, and sailed off in the tall cattails on the opposite side of the river. It was wounded, but old Lena had made a good mark, and she charged right in. She was gone for 10 minutes, trailing the bird through the marsh, but eventually she came swimming back — with my father's first pintail he'd ever harvested. It was about as close as you can come to a perfect hunt. I've been past that spot on the river occasionally since that day, and both Lena and my father are gone, but every time I paddle past, I remember that one amazing day, when everything came together, and produced one of those hunts you'll never forget." — Ole Anderson, Clearwater County
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