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A soggy opener in Atikokan

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A soggy opener in Atikokan
My family and I purchased a piece of land right beside my absolute favourite duck hunting spot this past spring. Over the course of the spring and summer, we cleared a small clearing and built a floor with the intention being that we setup a wall tent this fall and make sure that our location is "just right" before starting to build.


(We threw tarps up overtop after this picture)

"Camp Carbeen" is about 30-45 minutes away from leaving my driveway to walking through the front door of the tent, so it's quite close and accessible. Anyways, onto the duck related content.

On September 9th I trudged in loaded down with 2 packs and prepared to spend the first night there. I brushed my gunning coffin, setup the privy and was just watching the big rice marsh when I felt the rain start. I slip slided back up the muddy trail to camp and got ready for dinner. I quickly realized that I'd packed a lot of unnecessary things, and forgot some crucial items, like a can opener.



A few minutes with my Gerber Diesel had me eating. Townes, my English Springer, seemed to enjoy his supper more than mine. I went to bed listening to rain hammer onto the tarp and gusty winds with dreams of ducks in the morning...and I awoke to the same conditions.

In the dark, I fumbled with a Coleman 2 burner that was "field tested" and while I don't want to doubt my Dad because I love him, it has issues...which led to this


(Needless to say, it was taken out of service)

Not to be deterred, I drank my coffee and tried to explain to Townes that while today was indeed the day, we still had a while until shooting time. I sat under the shelter of the tent for a bit thinking up a gameplan until I thought Townes would explode with excitement if we didn't get going. I grabbed my Citori Lightning and walked out to the marsh.

We had a gusting East wind that was completely wrong for our property, but I'd dreamed of shooting a duck on my own property for 30 years, so I'd rough it out and see what happened. As I got set up, I saw another gunner paddle by on the other side of the marsh and setup at the creek mouth (always the best spot). My day to day spread consists of 3 Bean Coastal Magnum Black Ducks, 2 Bean Coastal Blacks and this year I added a Sneakbox Decoys Black. We don't get big flocks too often, mostly groups of 10 or smaller, so 6 decoys is plenty...and 6 decoys are heavy enough when they're black cork and cedar. We mainly shoot Mallards, and wood ducks early on, but they both decoy into Black decoys as well as anything else, and for me, a Black is a real trophy bird. I threw a couple plastic (gross) goose decoys to try and entice any honkers in the area.

I was counting down the seconds to shooting time, and right on cue, the creek gunner fired 3 quick shots. (He did the same thing the next day, I don't know if he does it just to get birds up and moving?). Birds are flying and I realize that my spot was even poorer than I had suspected in the dark, but, I just gripped the gun tighter and kept waiting. Eventually a pair of mallards came by and I sped them up on their way with two quick shots. Now I've had some reproachful and disappointed, bordering on disgust, looks from people in my life but absolutely none of them can compare to Townes when I miss a bird. If he could talk, I'm sure he'd have asked for a new owner. I reloaded, composed myself, apologized to Townes ("the rain is fogging up my glasses!") and consoled myself by saying "You miss the first shot every year anyways, it's okay"

A few minutes later, I catch Townes staring intently to my left and I turn, raising the gun as I do. Over the past 4 seasons if I've learned anything, it's trust your dog. A mallard has pitched wings and coming hard into the decoys. I miss the first shot, but neatly fold it on the 2nd. Townes does an almost impressively textbook retrieve and I sit back into my gunning box and admire the bird. The first duck shot on our property, a landmark duck for me.

The minutes creep back and the ducks keep flying by out of range. I decide to make a small move closer towards the end of the cattail point and it pays off almost immediately as the next duck the comes by is now 20 yards closer and a snap shot folded another mallard. Now in this part of the world, 3 ducks is a pretty solid day. Any goose is a bonus bird. So I'm thinking my luck has changed since burning up a tarp and having to knife my way into dinner the night before.

The next mallard that swings into the decoys is skirting range, but I make a nice shot and drop it. Townes makes another acceptable retrieve and I can see he's starting to forgive me just a little bit for missing earlier. Action was starting to slow down at this point and I was lounging in the gunning box when I hear a low whine from him and I look up to see a black duck floating overhead. Now I'm a slow learner, but I know from past experience if I make the mad scramble for my gun now as he's floating by, I'm going to flare him and it's going to end badly with another look from Townes. I sit tight and watch him land just outside the decoys.

I wait until he's swam away into the cattails a bit more and than half crawl out of the box and start a stalk. I have unsuccessfully stalked Blacks beyond count and successfully done it less times than I have fingers, and with Townes bouncing around in front, I figured it was a lower than usual chance. I kept shuffling forward through the muck, half bent over when I could see him through the wild rice. I haven't sluiced a bird on the water since I was 12 and as he saw me, he jumped up. I'll swear on my leaky hip boots that the bird was north of 40 yards when he jumped, but he was fighting the wind and just hanging there. I threw the gun up and at the shot, it folded as nice as any duck I've ever shot.



I decided to go out on a high point and gathered up my decoys and walked back to the camp.



I apologize that it's not a nicer picture, but when everything (including your cellphone is wet), composing a nice shot is tougher than usual.

As I sat there under the tarp, drinking scalding hot coffee, I realized that this was the life.

Hope anyone else who has an open season had a good opener, and good luck to anyone who's is still upcoming.

Cory
____________________________________
Founding & Proud member of the "Imp. Cyl Duck Club"
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Re: A soggy opener in Atikokan In reply to
 
Cory -

I will admit that I read much of what you wrote, and skimmed the rest.

The photo's pretty much say it all.

Your first photo is my favorite. Townes is a fine looking Best Friend (and yes always trust a good dog).

If it can go wrong, it will, and adversity are all part of waterfowling, hunting & fishing.

So yup ya had a good hunt, and lived to tell about it.


For the most part, soggy wet to the bones days are behind me.

Like most folks here, we have endured more than our share. It's all part of deal.


May you and Townes enjoy many a season together.


Best regards
Vince











"Art does not reproduce what is visible - but makes things visible." ~ Paul Klee, artist, 1920
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Re: A soggy opener in Atikokan In reply to
Good times, Great Memories

---------------------------------------------------------------------
***Phil (Chesapeake Boy) Nowack***

http://www.mapleridgetaxidermy.com
http://www.philnowackphotography.com

Nothing like the north wind pushing snow at your back, a bird in your hand, and chessie with ice on his coat at your side.

Birds brought to you courtesy of Nikon, Benelli, Kodi, and Otter
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Re: A soggy opener in Atikokan In reply to
Cory~


Great tale VERY well-told! (I examined every word and phrase with great admiration....)


You also reminded me of my long ago trip to Moosonee (Ontario just below James Bay). When the E-Z-open pop top on my Hormel Chili failed (ring popped off) - I solved he problem with my L. L. Bean Camp Axe.


I look forward many more of your fine adventures.


BTW: Great idea to "field test" the site before building in earnest.



All the best,


SJS

Steven Jay Sanford
Pencil Brook Farm
South Cambridge, NY
http://www.stevenjaysanford.com


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Re: A soggy opener in Atikokan In reply to
Great story Cory. To get a nice piece of land like that in a place you love is priceless. You are going to have a lot of fun there in the years ahead.
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Re: A soggy opener in Atikokan In reply to
greg setter wrote:
Great story Cory. To get a nice piece of land like that in a place you love is priceless. You are going to have a lot of fun there in the years ahead.


It's actually kind of a funny story on how we acquired it. It was announced in the paper that the property was for sale, and we discussed it and due to the remoteness and lack of access, we submitted a kind of low ball offer. Turns out someone else had submitted the same offer to the dollar! It kind of struck us how close we were to losing it and in the next round submitted a much fairer offer. The other party declined to submit a 2nd bid, so we ended up paying the higher price, but in the grand scheme of things, I think it'll feel minuscule in the coming years.

Vince Pagliaroli wrote:

Cory -

I will admit that I read much of what you wrote, and skimmed the rest.

The photo's pretty much say it all.

Your first photo is my favorite. Townes is a fine looking Best Friend (and yes always trust a good dog).

If it can go wrong, it will, and adversity are all part of waterfowling, hunting & fishing.

So yup ya had a good hunt, and lived to tell about it.


For the most part, soggy wet to the bones days are behind me.

Like most folks here, we have endured more than our share. It's all part of deal.


May you and Townes enjoy many a season together.


Best regards
Vince



It's when he hears things like that, he gets a big head and decides he knows better than me...and he usually does Wink

All things considering, only one burnt tarp and a ruined can of corned beef hash is pretty minor considering some of the situations I've got myself into chasing ducks...

Phil Nowack wrote:
Good times, Great Memories


I feel like I couldn't buy a morning like I had for the price we paid for the property.

Steve Sanford wrote:
Cory~


Great tale VERY well-told! (I examined every word and phrase with great admiration....)


You also reminded me of my long ago trip to Moosonee (Ontario just below James Bay). When the E-Z-open pop top on my Hormel Chili failed (ring popped off) - I solved he problem with my L. L. Bean Camp Axe.


I look forward many more of your fine adventures.


BTW: Great idea to "field test" the site before building in earnest.



All the best,


SJS


My gunning box was actually heavily inspired by yours (the plans are actually still on my fridge), I just couldn't bear to call it a Sanford gunning coffin due to the lack of craftsmanship on my part.

Were you on a hunt trip in Moosonee?

Thanks for all the kind comments everyone,

Cory
____________________________________
Founding & Proud member of the "Imp. Cyl Duck Club"
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Re: A soggy opener in Atikokan In reply to
Cory: Great stuff. Keep those cards and letters coming!!!
James Woods
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Re: A soggy opener in Atikokan In reply to
Cory,
First, I had to Google "Atikokan" as I had no clue where that might be.

Second, it's pretty funny when you say, "good luck to anyone whose season opener is still upcoming" when you live four miles from the north pole!! Mid-November is our season opener down here in NC.

Third, I just bought a Kodiak canvas tent that has not yet had its maiden voyage outside the back yard. I do pray that God spares me putting a hole in that sucker through a faulty implement or stupidity on my part.

Fourth, in early October I am flying to northern Michigan and then driving up into "northern" Ontario. I googled Atikokan from Sault Ste. Marie: you sir are 590 miles north of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Now that is NORTH!

Fifth, I love hearing of others like me who miss frequently.

Keep the stories coming.

Larry
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Re: A soggy opener in Atikokan In reply to
Larry Eckart wrote:
Cory,
First, I had to Google "Atikokan" as I had no clue where that might be.

Second, it's pretty funny when you say, "good luck to anyone whose season opener is still upcoming" when you live four miles from the north pole!! Mid-November is our season opener down here in NC.

Third, I just bought a Kodiak canvas tent that has not yet had its maiden voyage outside the back yard. I do pray that God spares me putting a hole in that sucker through a faulty implement or stupidity on my part.

Fourth, in early October I am flying to northern Michigan and then driving up into "northern" Ontario. I googled Atikokan from Sault Ste. Marie: you sir are 590 miles north of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Now that is NORTH!

Fifth, I love hearing of others like me who miss frequently.

Keep the stories coming.

Larry


You won't be the first, or last, to not know where Atikokan is

The downside to the early opener is we're locked up tight and froze by your opener, we never get fully plumed birds. The latest I think I've ever duck hunted was November 12th.

You'll be fine with the tent, most of my mistakes are always operator error ;)

What are you heading up to 'da Soo for?

If you love hearing about misses, you'll love my posts.

Cory
____________________________________
Founding & Proud member of the "Imp. Cyl Duck Club"
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Re: A soggy opener in Atikokan In reply to
Nice write up and congratulations on killing a few beautiful ducks from your own camp!

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I never know which is worse: the sorrow when you hit the bird, or the shame when you miss.
http://www.hillmandecoys.com
Mullica Hill NJ
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Re: A soggy opener in Atikokan In reply to
I can only imagine hunting ducks in Northern Canada in September! That would be awesome! Great story and even better hunt! A solid way to christen your new property!
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Re: A soggy opener in Atikokan In reply to
Cory,

Really a great read. I am jealous of your adventure. My old red bird dog just turned 13 in June, and he's got a bad hip from slipping on the pergo laminate flooring one too many times. He's good for a mile or 2 every day, but there is just no way he could hit it like he used to.

On down the road, you're really going to cherish the stories and photos that you've put together. Thanks again for taking the time to share them.





Don't just do something, Stand there!
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Re: A soggy opener in Atikokan In reply to
Extremely well written and a pleasure to follow along. What a perfect way to spend a morning. Next time if you would be so kind as to add a picture of your decoys, that would be great.
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Re: A soggy opener in Atikokan In reply to
J. Overland wrote:
Extremely well written and a pleasure to follow along. What a perfect way to spend a morning. Next time if you would be so kind as to add a picture of your decoys, that would be great.


I'll be sure to try my best to remember

jode hillman wrote:
Nice write up and congratulations on killing a few beautiful ducks from your own camp!


Thanks for the kind words

P Taylor wrote:
I can only imagine hunting ducks in Northern Canada in September! That would be awesome! Great story and even better hunt! A solid way to christen your new property!


It is nice to start early, but we're also done early. It's a double edge sword.

todd tennyson wrote:
Cory,

Really a great read. I am jealous of your adventure. My old red bird dog just turned 13 in June, and he's got a bad hip from slipping on the pergo laminate flooring one too many times. He's good for a mile or 2 every day, but there is just no way he could hit it like he used to.

On down the road, you're really going to cherish the stories and photos that you've put together. Thanks again for taking the time to share them.


I'm only good for a mile or two everyday and I'm still supposed to be young Wink

I've made a lot of good memories with this little dog, he seems to be a winner.

Cory
____________________________________
Founding & Proud member of the "Imp. Cyl Duck Club"
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Re: A soggy opener in Atikokan In reply to
Love the pictures and love the area...Spent many of nights in Atikokan prior to the next morning pushing off a canoe into the Quetico from French Lake or Beaverhouse....

Awesome....
Kristan
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Re: A soggy opener in Atikokan In reply to
Kristan wrote:
Love the pictures and love the area...Spent many of nights in Atikokan prior to the next morning pushing off a canoe into the Quetico from French Lake or Beaverhouse....

Awesome....
Kristan


Quetico certainly is a beautiful place. I worked there for a few summers while I was in College and my Dad is currently the biologist for the Park.

Must be quite the drive from Kentucky?

Cory
____________________________________
Founding & Proud member of the "Imp. Cyl Duck Club"
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Re: A soggy opener in Atikokan In reply to
Well it has been quite the drive from several places...Started going in college in the mid 90s from Fort Wayne, about 16 hours. Then later from Paducah, Ky 17 hours. The last drive I made was from Houston, Tx which took about 24 hours. Still after about 12 trips into the park it is well worth the drive to spend 7 to 10 days in the park. Typically we would go on 125 mile round trips throughout the park covering 12 to 15 miles per day. In the early years I always helped pack a 90 pound aluminum canoe...Then as the canoes got lighter into the Kevlar and then eventually built a 17 foot Coho kayak by Pygmy boats and would trek the park with a 39 pound wood kayak...I have not been in 4 years but plans are in the works for me and the roughly the same crew of friends that have been venturing into the park to come up around September in 2020...The adventure in the park is just half the trip. The memories of the drive and some of the things that have happened on the drive are still a fun part of the trip. Maybe next year I can get in touch with you when in the area and visit on the night we are up there...We usually hit the Outdoorsman Restaurant early and have a few drinks over to the Nite Club for a few drinks before turning in to start our trip into the Park...

Its very interesting your father is biologist for the park. I remember the last time we were up we cleaned our kayaks and canoes very thoroughly before going into the park because they had some type of water flea that would get into the mouths of smaller fish causing problems with the lower food chain of the bait fish. Is that actually still a problem?

The last time I was there we actually entered that year through Nym which boarders the park into Bautchawong and the fishing was not really good until we got down in the Narrows and Russell lake below Chatterton Falls...Really miss my yearly ventures into that park...An now in my 40s those portages are no longer a one tripper on some of the longer ones...We use to set up our trips plans based on trying to visit the toughest portages in the same trip...Those 800 to 1200 rod portages...Just to test our physical endurance and wits...Now a 250 rod portage is about as far as I want to tackle...Good luck and safe hunting season!
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Re: A soggy opener in Atikokan In reply to
Kristan wrote:
Well it has been quite the drive from several places...Started going in college in the mid 90s from Fort Wayne, about 16 hours. Then later from Paducah, Ky 17 hours. The last drive I made was from Houston, Tx which took about 24 hours. Still after about 12 trips into the park it is well worth the drive to spend 7 to 10 days in the park. Typically we would go on 125 mile round trips throughout the park covering 12 to 15 miles per day. In the early years I always helped pack a 90 pound aluminum canoe...Then as the canoes got lighter into the Kevlar and then eventually built a 17 foot Coho kayak by Pygmy boats and would trek the park with a 39 pound wood kayak...I have not been in 4 years but plans are in the works for me and the roughly the same crew of friends that have been venturing into the park to come up around September in 2020...The adventure in the park is just half the trip. The memories of the drive and some of the things that have happened on the drive are still a fun part of the trip. Maybe next year I can get in touch with you when in the area and visit on the night we are up there...We usually hit the Outdoorsman Restaurant early and have a few drinks over to the Nite Club for a few drinks before turning in to start our trip into the Park...

Its very interesting your father is biologist for the park. I remember the last time we were up we cleaned our kayaks and canoes very thoroughly before going into the park because they had some type of water flea that would get into the mouths of smaller fish causing problems with the lower food chain of the bait fish. Is that actually still a problem?

The last time I was there we actually entered that year through Nym which boarders the park into Bautchawong and the fishing was not really good until we got down in the Narrows and Russell lake below Chatterton Falls...Really miss my yearly ventures into that park...An now in my 40s those portages are no longer a one tripper on some of the longer ones...We use to set up our trips plans based on trying to visit the toughest portages in the same trip...Those 800 to 1200 rod portages...Just to test our physical endurance and wits...Now a 250 rod portage is about as far as I want to tackle...Good luck and safe hunting season!


And I thought the 10 hour drive I'm taking to Manitoba tomorrow was a trek...

For sure get in touch if you come up. It's great that you're going to do it again with the same people.

I haven't heard about it being a problem, but I also haven't made it into the Park the last while.

There's definitely some mankiller portages there.

Cory
____________________________________
Founding & Proud member of the "Imp. Cyl Duck Club"