The 2009 Minnesota regular waterfowl hunting season got underway today with a great deal of anticipation. Here in southern Minnesota it’s been rainy, miserable and colder for the past couple of days which had set the stage for an optimistic opener for many hunters. Unfortunately, fewer “local” ducks meant the time between shooting opportunities was noticeably longer as compared to previous years.
This morning I was the guest of Jim Jirik, a rural Shieldsville, Minnesota landowner who has a series of small, private ponds established on his Rice County property. Jirik’s land lies within a half mile of Mud Lake, a popular waterfowl hunting location, so we anticipated lots of duck and goose movement once the shooting commenced at 9:00am.
As we parked our vehicles and slowly walked towards the pond, our optimism was running quite high as several flocks of ducks wingin’ overhead seemed to be showing interest in Jirik’s ponds. At one point a dozen or more geese took flight from the largest pond further bolstering our enthusiasm for the fast-approaching waterfowl season soon to be underway. A bonus sighting was watching several sandhill cranes exit the far edge of the pond lumbering to flight with their raspy, unmistakable calling.
Yet, as so often is the case in hunting, what started out as high optimism would soon evolve into a sobering dose of reality.
As our group of eight hunters positioned ourselves around the pond system we watched the clock and readied equipment. At precisely 9am the first barrage of shooting echoed from nearby Mud Lake and the season was finally underway.
Approximately five minutes into the season the two Jirik boys, Joe and Ben, found the opportunity to salute a small flock of green-winged teal. As the morning pressed on occasionally some individual wood ducks and northern shovelers broke the otherwise monotony of what was becoming a rather slow opener.
Dick Rost, one of the elder hunters who claims he hasn’t missed a Minnesota duck hunting opener for 60+ years (except for those years he served in the military), shook his head in disappointment. “The ducks just aren’t flying the way they used to,” commented Rost. Rost went on to lament how in years past this very pond has yielded far better results during most opening day hunts.
Still, as our group of hunters gathered after several hours of hunting, the frustration and disappointment gave way to an overall feeling that regardless whether ducks or no ducks…it just felt good to be back out waterfowl hunting for yet another year. It’s easy to dwell on the fact these aren’t “the good ol’ days” for duck hunting in Minnesota, but this group of hunters remains much more positive than that.
Moreover, waterfowl hunting is a bit unusual in that every day is unique and can yield vastly different results. Such is the nature of hunting a bird that is constantly on the move from North to the South. When hunting is a bust one day the very next day could prove to be a boon of activity. And thus, we file away the memories of yet another waterfowl opener realizing that the 2009 waterfowl season has only just begun.
© 2009 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.