(And how these memorable honey holes earned them)
Despite the romance inherent in waterfowl hunting, we usually give our favorite spots pretty pedestrian names.
Consider some of the areas I hunted in 2015, such as Bill's, which I cleverly named for its owner … Bill. Then there was Peterson's, which, again and just as cleverly, took the name of its owner. You get the idea.
Now and then, however, inspiration strikes after a memorable hunt, and we give new spots lasting nicknames that reflect our experiences there. If nothing else, these designations let us laugh about misadventure and help us remember details from the property much better than after hunting areas with bland nomenclature, such as Slough by the Blue House (which I hunted several times, incidentally; great gaddie hole).
Here's a list of seven of the best nicknamed duck spots I've hunted through the years.
The Rice Pond
This cattail-choked pothole on the northern end of a heavily hunted Wisconsin lake was our go-to spot for years. Don't ask me why it was called the Rice Pond. There hadn't been a stick of wild rice there for decades. Yet friend and mentor Brian Dunn, who showed us the spot in 1990, insisted on calling it that, so the name stuck.
We should have called it the mallard pond, because when the wind blew from the south or west, that place was money for greenheads.
A friend and I discovered this long North Dakota cattle-pasture slough during a far-ranging scouting mission. It produced a dandy double limit of mallards, gadwall and wigeon, but we never hunted it again. Why? The shoreline muck and bog were so thick that we were filthy and exhausted after two hours. We each sprained an ankle and fell on our butts during the hunt. Oh, and the owner's dog beat the holy heck out of my retriever, Belle.
The Hellhole II
OK, that's not an inspired name, but it fit. This Hellhole iteration was in northern South Dakota; a huge mud flat with a large expanse of sheet water in the middle, holding dozens of green-winged teal. A buddy — the same guy who hunted the original Hellhole with me — and I trudged through the slop to hunt the spot one morning. It produced a decent bag of teal, but as with the first Hellhole, we vowed that we'd never return. My legs ached for days. My waders might still be there, petrified for eternity.
The origins of this North Dakota slough are simple: The owner was always pie-eyed. It didn't matter if you knocked on his door at 9 a.m. or 5 p.m. He'd be drunk. Oh, he was nice enough and always let us hunt. However, being intoxicated, he liked to talk quite a bit. One time, most of my friends left a buddy at the door to carry on the conversation while they started shooting ducks.
An older friend and I slipped into this South Dakota slough before dark one morning. As we crossed the road, a skunk popped out of a culvert and ambled down the road. My friend hates varmints and saved some bird eggs. That is, he shot the skunk.
Trouble was, the slough was downwind of the polecat carcass, and we had to smell skunk spray all morning. Fellow hunters avoided us when we returned to camp with our straps of pintails and gadwalls.
No secrets here — at least now. A buddy and I glassed this large slough from afar, got permission to hunt and sneaked in the next morning. We'd seen 300-plus ducks and were ready to take advantage. In our haste, however, we failed to realize that about 275 of the 300 ducks were pintails, so after shooting our sprigs (the limit was one apiece then), we had to watch wave after wave of pinnies decoy. Finally, fortune smiled, and we filled out with some bonus teal.
I'd arrived in North Dakota late the night before, but my brother-in-law had found a great spot loaded with ducks, right off State Highway 57. We eased under a fence the next morning to reap the harvest.
Why is Belle's nose bleeding? he asked matter-of-factly.
Crap. Belle's nose wasn't just bleeding; it was gushing. She must have cut it on the fence. Worse, it was early in the morning, and we were 20 miles from the nearest vet.
Oh well. I stopped the bleeding and disinfected the cut. Belle helped retrieve our limits of gadwalls and teal that morning, and she wore the scar of that fence on her snout till the day she died.
I laugh every time I drive past this North Dakota gem. My father and I shot loads of gaddies, wigeon and other ducks at this little slough a few years ago, but the constant flights of dowitchers — a medium-sized, long-billed wading bird — almost gave me several heart attacks.
On the deck … oh wait; dang it, I'd say, as my dad chuckled.
But that's not why I laugh at this spot. The owner's name isn't Robleson. In fact, I don't know where I came up with that. I must have scribbled it down in haste while looking at a plat book, and it stuck. Sleep-deprivation isn't always cool, I guess.
This spot was a duck hunter's dream. I'd asked a South Dakota landowner about hunting his slough, and he agreed. However, a friend with whom he'd been talking suggested another spot; an area he rented to the north. I drove past and saw about 250 ducks crammed in a small wetland with easy access.
The next morning, three friends and I set up along a fence line and enjoyed the prairie shoot of a lifetime: 24 birds, consisting of nine species, in about 90 minutes.
The funny name? Oh, that came from the plants along the fence row. Apparently, they were from the genus Bidens, which produces a seed commonly known as a sticktight. The seeds have two fine prongs and, as the name implies, stick tight to anything. Did I mention that it was cold that morning, and my friends and I were wearing wool sweaters?
Those garments looked like ghillie suits when we left that slough. I worked on mine for two hours before throwing it out in frustration.
The Dakotas give generously … but they also have a sense of humor.
More to Come
I hope to coin more stupid names for duck hunting spots this season. I'm sure you will, too. What's the nickname of your honey hole?