SISSETON, S.D. | There are few better ways to spend part of a day than to be tucked into a layout blind waiting for the geese to fly. Even if they don’t.
There were a bunch of them sitting on sandbars in Dry Wood Lake just behind us. We could see them but wish as we might, they stayed as if their feet were glued to the sand.
Of course it was 65 degrees, no wind and the migration had mired up because of the unseasonably warm weather. If you are a waterfowler, you know that under those conditions, all bets are off.
And if they were taking odds on our success at the Dakota Magic Casino in North Dakota, just across the South Dakota border, where we were staying, those in the know would have laid their Benjamins against us.
And they would have collected their bets. Only one goose came off the water and seemed to thumb his nose at us as he flew behind our setup and into the lake beyond.
As the sun sank below the horizon we began the work of picking up over 50 full-body Canada goose decoys and layout blinds.
We were hunting on the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Lake Traverse Reservation. I was with Gary Howey and cameraman Josh Anderson, both of Hartington, Neb. We had long heard about the excellent waterfowl hunting on this reservation, which stretches across nine counties from Lake Traverse to Watertown, S.D., and back up to form a kind of triangle of which part is in North Dakota.
We were there for a three-day trip hunting with Brandon Adams of N8tive Hunting Guidez and his friend and fellow guide Ray Eastman.
But, as luck would have it, we ran into the most unseasonable November weather that I can remember.
The migration had come to a halt. The ducks and geese we were hunting had stayed put in the area for over three weeks. Without the influx of new birds, our birds had become educated to the ways of hunters. And believe me, a trophy whitetail buck could take some lessons in how to avoid hunters from ducks and geese that have been educated by hanging out in the same area for too long.
Our hunt began the day before on a small slough just a few yards away from a larger lake. Such small sloughs are loafing areas for puddle ducks throughout the daytime. They prefer this kind of water, primarily from a feeding standpoint. Divers will hold to the larger lakes.
We spooked a lot of ducks off the pond on our way in and set up about 50 decoys, including a couple of Mojo motion decoys.
Again, it was a bluebird day. As I sat perched on my folding stool tucked into the cattails, I must admit that I enjoyed the mild weather, even though the birds wouldn’t cooperate. I love calling ducks, and I did my best to entice the few fliers that graced us with their presence. I was nowhere near the level of caller that my guides were but even their best efforts often resulted in the birds sitting down outside the decoys.
By sunset, we ended with two gadwalls and called it a day.
Our goose hunt was foiled the next day because hunters had worked the geese we planned on hunting the evening before. But one thing about hunting on the reservation, there is no shortage of opportunities.
We set up on another duck slough. Ray set out about 50 decoys and we tucked into the cattails. Flock after flock came in and worked our spread. The results were always the same. The ducks sat down outside our decoys, too far for a shot. They were really educated. If we would give them a call, they would bust and fly out of there.
Of course, even under these conditions you always have opportunities, and we certainly had ours. Problems was, our shooting was dismal. We were the poster children of why you should practice your shooting before going on the hunt. Ray dropped a nice Canada and another gadwall, but the only thing Gary and I carried out was our empty hulls.
The next morning we met our guides at another small slough south of Clear Lake in the dark. Thank god for google maps and modern technology. We had duck and goose decoys out and as the morning sun began to light up the eastern sky, we could see clouds of ducks and geese working the bigger lake to the east.
We had a good shoot that morning with Brandon taking top gun honors. He dropped a lesser Canada goose, a drake mallard and some gadwalls. Gary and I? Well, I think it is back to the drawing board for us.
The reservation duck season ends Dec. 6 and the Canada goose season closes Dec. 18. If we can get a weather change, cold front, wind, perhaps even snow, it will bring more ducks down from North Dakota and those ducks we hunted with an education the equivalent of a Ph.D. will be out of there.
I’d like to have another chance at them but not before I burn a couple hundred rounds at some of those slow flying clay pigeons.
For more information about hunting the reservation, Google Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate hunting. For guide services, call Brandon Adams at (605) 228-7290. Tribal licenses are available at Dakota Connection Casino, just a mile east of Sisseton. Waterfowl permits are $150 for non-Indians.