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Chitown-Angler
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Joined: 02:03pm - Dec 14,12
Posts: 973
Location: Chi-area

Post Posted: 11:05am - Nov 1,18 
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Good Morning Fellow CTAs -

The Popper was able to make it up to Lake Onalaska this past weekend to spend a couple days in the rice chasing a mixed bag of ducks. After meeting Scott at the decoy show at Pheasant Run this spring, the Popper, along with his father, made a plan to spend some time hunting out of Scott's resort "Cozy Corner Cottages" this season. With a family wedding on Saturday in the Twin Cities, they made plans to stay Thursday-Saturday. They came a week late, and ended up hunting a small number of highly pressured birds.

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Thursday came, and the Popper had to work a half day in the morning. Time moved as slow as molasses in January, until the moment that clock hit 11. Once the Popper jumped in the truck, the clock started spinning. He made it up to the cottages around 3, and immediately grabbed his gun and waders. Scott's son dropped the Popper off to join Scott and the Popper's father for the afternoon hunt. The Popper was greeted by a few bald eagles on his way out, some truly magnificent birds. The trio sat and watched the skies as small groups of mallards and canvasbacks flew through the marsh. The other groups on the marsh seemed to think their guns were effective out to 100yds which was discouraging, but they hunkered down and hoped for some birds to “do it right.” Scott explained that on the weeks between migration pushes, the marsh becomes a “pass shooting” gallery for most of the hunters. The party was presented with a number of shot opportunities, but they were caught up in conversation, and off-guard. They ended the evening only firing a few shots at the tails of a few birds, and hungry to jump into the skiffs the next morning.

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Friday, 3:00am, the popper and his father loaded the aluminum skiffs and headed into the marsh. With the prospect of a "small number" of stale birds, they decided to hunt near the refuge line in hopes of having an opportunity at more birds. Scott was nice enough to let the pair hunt out of his personal Lund Duckers which were powered by 5.5hp Stump Jumper motors, making the boats the equivalent of an ATV for the water. Scott offered the use of multiple other vessels, but with the wedding on Saturday, the Popper did not want to be driving around with an outboard in the bed of the truck the rest of the weekend.

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Once on the spot, the Popper and his father enjoyed a couple hours of uninterrupted conversation, something that gets lost in the day-to-day living, while waiting for the sun to rise. The moments shared with family and friends far surpass the feelings of accomplishment when the ducks hit the water. Hossa, the Popper’s father’s puppy, was the first to get himself ready as the moments before shooting light faded away. First light brought large flights of high-flying mallards, wood ducks, and widgeon. The Popper started the morning with a drake mallard that decoyed directly in front of the pair. Wood ducks buzzed through at hyper speed, and one flew between the hunters’ heads. Once the sun peeked from behind the trees, the bird activity slowed, and the pair started thinking they should have been taking the passing shots early in the morning.

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A widgeon and a drake canvasback were next to hit the water while the Popper’s father worked out his gun/shooting issues. Hossa made a couple great retrieves, but he started getting cold so the Popper’s father brought the dog back to the resort to warm up. While on his own, the Popper lost a hen redhead to a dive; the bird swam its way into the refuge, and the Popper was unable to retrieve the bird. He was able to retrieve the hen gadwall that came in a half hour later. It was the Popper’s first gadwall, and represented the last Midwestern puddle duck for the Popper to check off of his list. The afternoon moved along, and the Popper was rejoined with his father and dog. The scenery is definitely not what the Popper is used to when duck hunting, but it sure was beautiful.

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Birds were consistently turning around at the refuge line, or hitting the line and ascending to 60-80 yards as they flew over the hunters. As the sun started to drop, a single bluebill flew through the spread, higher than the Popper would have wanted to shoot, but his father took the shot and seemed to clip the bird, the Popper followed up, and the bird sailed about 150 yards away after being clipped a second time. By the time the dog got into the area, the bird dove and neither the hunters or dog were able to see where the bird came back to the surface. After 45 minutes of grid work, the Popper decided to call off the search. With only 4 birds in hand, the Popper had reached his bird limit and headed in to the dock to make use of the bird/fish cleaning station available at the cottages.

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Saturday presented more wind, and more hunters on the marsh. Arriving at their intended spot at 3:30, the pair found another group of hunters who invited the pair to set up only 60 yards away. Not wanting to totally encroach on that group, the pair slid down the shoreline about 200 yards. The birds waited until after shooting light to start moving, but the additional hunting pressure had them flying much higher the second morning. Unfortunately, the 60-90 yard passing shots the other hunters were taking did not help the birds to fly any lower. Only two ducks presented ethical shots for the pair, and they each were able to connect with one of them. Hossa made his first two blind retrieves in the thick canary grass behind the boat bringing a canvasback and a mallard back to the hunters. Unfortunately, the hunters had to get off of the marsh early due to the wedding in the afternoon, and they ended up driving away as more birds started to move off of the refuge.

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In the end, Scott and Cozy Corner Cottages were extremely accommodating. The cottage had 4 beds and a futon along with a full bathroom, kitchen, and a television. Scott makes it convenient to make a weekend trip by having the boats available for use; the next trip up the Popper will bring a motor so he can use one of the larger jon boats and avoid trailering a boat from home. It was nice to get to see a friend again, and make some new ones. The time spent with family and the new experience of hunting off of the Mississippi made the hunt truly memorable. Hunting out of the skiffs, and seeing the other skiffs on the property was definitely a highlight seeing as those types of vessels are few and far between in North Eastern Illinois. Though the Popper was told there was a small number of birds around, the days were filled with birds flying and more birds than he’d see closer to home. The hunters could have had full straps, and tailgate pictures had they decided to take the long and passing shots, but letting birds go is a better choice than possibly wounding them or not being able to retrieve them. The Popper is already planning to make it up to Cozy Corner before the end of the duck season, and again for the ice fishing season after hearing stories of the large pan fish that roam the shallow waters of Lake Onalaska. Hopefully, he can get a larger group together to make the trips.

Pannie Popper

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I practice catch and release. Catch and release into the grease.

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