Nice start to the season

Jeff Reardon

Well-known member
No photos to share, but Maine's north zone early duck season has been kinder to me than usual.

The season opened Monday morning, and a friend and I went to the usual spot--a ~30-acre hike-in pond that's across the street and a half mile down the hill from my house. I keep a canoe in there. My buddy has a lab who is not well trained for canoes, so he hiked to one end of the pond to set up while I paddled to an island at the far end to do the same.

I'd not been down to the pond in a while, and was surprised that beaver activity has raised it a foot or more, flooding and killing most of the trees on my island. The usual "blind", a spot with some cover under a big red maple and some taller bushes in front of me, was pretty exposed with the red maple killed and leafless and most of the shrubs the same. I did my best to make myself small against the tree trunk and hoped the rain and opening day confidence in the ducks would save my bacon.

We had both wood ducks and black ducks flying and calling in the 10 minutes before legal shooting light, and about 5 minutes past legal a nice drake wood duck surprised me and was almost landed in the decoys before I saw him. I took him just about as his feet hit the water, and managed to avoid ventilating any of my decoys. If I'd been smart, I'd have let the duck sit for 10 minutes, but it was opening day and I wanted the bird in hand. During the few minutes it took to grab the canoe and retrieve, I had another trio of wood ducks land in the decoys, then a pair of black ducks head straight in and only flare at the last moment when they saw me in the canoe. (Did I mention it's nice to open the season on inexperienced ducks?)

Alas, the shot gun was back leaning against my dead tree, so they all flew on.

A half hour later, one more pair of black ducks gave me a hard look and flared. By this time it was clear I was visible and it was time to head in for work.

I made a second solo trip to the same pond today. I'm giving up on my island spot until the water level drops and some trees and shrubs get re-established, so I found a dead tree on the shore across from the island and set up behind it. I once again had a single drake wood duck just over the decoys right at first light and dropped him literally at my feet. Didn't even need the canoe for the retrieve--just reached out with the paddle from my seat. Ten minutes later I had a trio come in and took the one that was clearly a drake just before they landed. The other two landed in the decoys--a drake and a hen. Visions of three drake limit of woodies tempted me to jump the pair up and take the drake on his way out, but when I stood up and shouted, they just sat there. It took me a pretty good rant to get to fly, and by then my heart just wasn't in it. I let them both go and packed it in.

Fully loaded up on drake wood duck feathers for next season's fly tying, and duck is on the menu tonight.

(Edited to change "south" zone to "north". My brain knows the difference, and I live in the north zone, but my fingers do not.)
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Nice start and story Jeff. 20 years ago I'd of taken that swimmer drake woody from the pair home. Now a days I'd of done exactly as you did. Funny how time changes you.

Have a great season.
A brace of drake Wood Ducks is just enough.

Ya did good, and some folks say that Wood Ducks (early season or late) don't decoy. Patience is the key.

Black Ducks and Wood Ducks in my experience usually like the same inland habitat, secluded, lots of cover, and ample food. Paired together in the bag look just fine, stark contrast, natural beauty for appreciation and artistic inspiration.

That makes for a mighty fine first day. No photos required. Would like to see the flies you create with the bounty of feathers once winter sets in.

Best regards
tod osier said:
I'm stuck here in wyoming. :(.

I'm only here in Maine for our early north zone season because we have not yet resumed our annual western pilgrimage to chase cutts in the Snake and Yellowstone watersheds. I'd sort of forgotten how nice New England is in late September!

If you are looking to kill a little time in gorgeous country . . . . While chasing cutts in a double secret tributary of the Yellowstone not too far from Cody, back before Covid, I saw enormous numbers of chukars in gorgeous mountain country, but had not been smart enough to bring a shotgun. Would make a great cast and blast couple of days. I think this late the fishing would trend more towards brown trout running up to spawn out of a reservoir downstream. The birds could certainly keep you and a dog or two entertained.

Will trade coordinates and my knowledge of where the Forest Service and BLM parcels intersect the river and the hills above it for considerations of equal or greater value. [;)]

If you are farther west, on another of my western trout pilgrimages, we spent a few days on the Henry's Fork in Idaho and the waterfowl abundance was just unbelievable the third week of September. I'm sure the slower sections and low gradient tribs to the Snake around Jackson would be similarly loaded.
tod osier said:
Jeff Reardon said:
tod osier said:
I'm stuck here in wyoming. :(.

At some point, I hope to be able to trade lodging in the upper green river basin for info, if that works. :)

Deal--but the upper Green is a long way from the Snake and Yellowstone headwaters which are the only places I have any direct knowledge. I may know a few people, though . . .