If goose season had been open we’d probably have limited, but instead we got only a couple of opportunities at ducks on a day bringing lots of rain.
Location: Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, Blind 1
Conditions: Cloudy and cool in the morning; rain midday
Birds Taken: 0 for 2 hunters (only two good opportunities)
Since the blind reservation system for Ridgefield was really fowled up this year we’ve had to test our luck more often during morning standby hunts. You know you’re dedicated when you’ll haul yourself out of a warm, cozy bed at 3 a.m. to get up and haul yourself to the refuge to wait in line to maybe get a blind.
On this day we were fortunate in that there were exactly as many hunt groups as there were blinds, so we got one, although we were the second to last pick. We ended up with Blind 1, the eastern-most blind on the refuge and one that is known for better late-season hunts than early ones. In this case it worked out fine. Scott couldn’t join us so Tim’s 12-year-old daughter, Devyn, joined us as an observer. Blind 1 was really ideal for her since she did not have waders. The quick walk from the parking area next to Blind 1a does not require them.
The blind has a 2-man vault and 1-man cylinder and I remembered from cleaning out the blind before the beginning of the season that the cylinder is prone to flooding. I brought a 5-gallon bucket seat with me in case it needed bailing. When we got to the blind we found the cylinder only had about two inches of water. It did not have a stool in it so I was glad to have the bucket!
We had 2-dozen mixed decoys with us, including mallards, widgeon, pintail and teal. We set them up in a rough “J” pattern with the hook of the “J’ starting to the right of the blind and wrapping around it with the length of the “J” along the back edge of the pond about 30 yards away. This left plenty of room in front of the blind and to the left of the blind for birds.
Unfortunately for Devyn, it was not a good day for ducks, at least at Blind 1. The weather was cold and cloudy and a rain system was due to hit about 10 am so we were hopeful this would move ducks around the refuge. It may have but we only got a few close enough to us to shoot. We had one drake shoveler in the water about 40 yards to the right and I was lining up on it as Tim was trying to bring it closer with some quacks on his call. Right then, three pintail crossed from right to left and I unloaded on the lead bird, missing it. Tim shot at it, too. I had rushed the shot and also spooked the shoveler I was hunting. Birds 4, hunters 0. We shot at one other duck as it passed us. Then we waiting on a shoveler that acted like it was going to land, flared, circled and left.
Had we been hunting geese we would have probably come close to a limit. At least 200 birds flew over us in flocks of 2-20 throughout the morning, at least a third of which were low enough to shoot. Some were duskies, but most were cacklers with a few honkers as well. There is a North-South flyway for geese that goes over Blind 1, so it can be a good blind for geese on the right day.