Bad luck and a slow day for ducks on the refuge provides some good wildlife viewing.
Location: Ridgefield NWR, Blind 6
Conditions: 39 degrees and light fog in the morning, warmer and partly cloudy in afternoon with breeze of 5-10 mph
Birds Taken: 0
Typical of a mid-week hunt, work schedules get in the way of hunting. Roman was unable to pull away for the day to hunt. I reached out to another friend and he too had to work. So I was on my own to “bring home the ducks. “
As I prepared for the hunt, I noticed with the recent time change, sunrise was earlier, which means check in is earlier and getting out of bed seems much earlier. My alarm went off at 3:50 a.m., sharp.
As I start my fourth year of duck hunting, I have to say we have had pretty good luck getting a blind with the lottery system when standby hunting at the Ridgefield Refuge. Unfortunately, that luck ran out this Tuesday morning. Too many hunters, not enough blinds. All totaled, three groups were turned away after all the blinds were selected. We were put on a list and could return at 10 a.m. and await the availability of a blind as hunters complete their morning hunts and return to the check station.
So I grabbed a couple hours of sleep and returned for the 10 a.m. draw. One group of hunters had returned and had bagged 3 ducks. Not very promising but better than sitting in the parking lot not knowing how long I might have to wait for another blind. I took Blind 6 and was pretty optimistic of my chances. From mine and Roman’s previous hunt, water levels seemed to be an issue and I knew Blind 6 had a nice open body of water. So far this season, the number of ducks taken from Blind 6 seemed to be above average from years past. This was my first opportunity to hunt Blind 6 and I always look forward to hunting a blind for the first time.
I was happy with the camouflage around the blind itself. There was some taller grass around the pit blind and I felt well concealed. I packed in two dozen decoys and placed them vertically to the right and left of the blind in almost a “V” pattern. I left what I hoped to be a large landing zone in the middle, directly in front of the blind.
I noticed during the hike in and the set up that the refuge seemed unusually quiet. Not a lot of shooting from any of the blinds. Within 20 minutes, I had my first two ducks circling low. They actually flew in below the tree line and I did not see them until one was landing in the middle of the left side of deeks. This pair were shovelers and from my experience they often fly in low and land with little warning. The second shoveler landed in the next pond over near Blind 5.
My shoveler swam out of the back of the decoy spread and it appeared I lost my opportunity. I heard the duck occasionally giving a single quack. I started answering it with a single quack and it turned and slowly swam in my direction. I tried to work it for about 10 minutes and attempted a 40 yard shot but missed. There was no wind at the time and the duck flew directly away from me and did not give me another shot.
Little did I know, those were the only ducks I would see the rest of the day. I felt like I had good open water and a good decoy spread. I even had a light breeze start up at about noon that lasted the rest of the afternoon. The ducks just weren’t flying. I learned the whole refuge was slow that day in comparison to other days this season.
During the afternoon I got the chance to watch a coyote for nearly an hour. It soaked up some sun and then hunted a few snacks in the field between Blind 6 and Blind 7. I also watched two bald eagles and buck from my blind. I look forward to the opening of goose season on November 14th as I saw hundreds of geese fly right over the blind. While the duck hunting was slow this day, the wildlife viewing was good.