Took my 13 year old son up to South Dakota to experience what I've been babbling nonstop about since the first trip I made up there four years ago. This was our first trip focusing solely on waterfowl and more specifically chasing tundra swans. I was lusting after these giant birds after the first time I saw a picture of a 6' man holding one that was the same size as he was! We were fortunate enough to have made a lot of friends with some great folks up there, many of them being guides for everything from elk to pigeons. Well one of those friends encouraged us to put in for the draw and introduced us to Willie Gloe. We were fortunate enough to draw swan tags. We got there Thursday afternoon and headed out to scout. 60 degrees. Sun shining. Not a breath of wind. We spotted about 2 dozen swans sitting on a slough with several hundred mallards and a thousand geese. We took up a position in a narrow neck hoping the birds would trade back and forth between the two wider ends of the mile long body of water. The wind and weather gave them no reason to move so they stayed put and we listened to ducks talk, geese honk, and swans hoot until dark. Beautiful evening.
Friday morning we set out for a slough where we'd seen about 50 swans the night before. There were several thousand geese and an assortment of ducks that is hard to imagine. Once again not a breath of wind and no reason for the birds to get up off the water. We had a ball pass shooting ducks. The boy soloed a green wing right off the bat and that got him amped. He hammered a mallard and then another teal...his new Weatherby SA08 was tuned in and he was hooked. Well after the first couple of volleys my old Ithaca mag 10 started acting up. After a few more the trigger was limp and it was nonfunctional. The geese and swans still hadn't moved so I struck a trot towards the truck to retrieve a spare 10gauge pump. Well I'm 100 yards from the truck and a tractor trailer hauling corn comes over the hill. He hits the jake break and with a bellow the slough comes to life. I watch from 3/4 a mile away as two thousand geese jump and start heading towards our setup. The swans followed. I watch the whole thing unfold...they get closer and closer... I hear Willie yell "KILL'M!" And the sky is raining geese and 4 swans come crashing down! I'm a mile away. I walk back down just shaking my head...the kid is jumping up and down. He didn't hit one but now he knew what he was up against. Friday morning we killed:
8 green wing, 5 canvas backs, 4 mallards, 2 ringers, 1 redhead, 4 swans, 6 snows, and 1 blue.
Insane shoot given the calm weather.
We go to lunch about 11:00 then head back out about 2:00 to scout. Hind a fantastic hole for the next morning and head to check out another. By then the wind had picked up to about 30mph as a front blew in so birds were moving. We pulled up on a large crooked slough where Canadas and mallards were jumping around from corner to corner. There were about a dozen swans there too. We set out to shoot some mallards and as we walked between two hills birds came pouring through a gap. We hunkered down in the grass and once they got to us we let them have it. After the first shot they turned into the north wind and it was a shooting gallery. They would stall out and just hover there. We thumped three mallards and a buddy swatted a swan that came screaming over. We hustles on up to a point on the lake and the boy and I laid down in the grass. We took passing shots at ducks until a big wad of honkers came over...a little long but hell we didn't go all the way to South Dakota to bring shells home! We unleashed a hail of Remington Hypersonic BBs and the boy and I both knocked one down. We waited another 30 minutes and headed back towards the truck...the wind screaming. As it got closer to dark, swans started coming over the hill. We ran down the road to a low spot where they seemed to be crossing. They were way tall but we lobbed a couple up at them anyway. Right before dark the boy had two shells left in his gun from box number 4 for the day. He shot at a swan straight over his head, laid the gun down and said "I'm done...I can't take anymore!" His thumb was raw from loading and his scrawny shoulder was burger. That kid put in some work Friday! All in all we killed 9 different species Friday. We shot ducks literally from daylight til dark. It was insane.
Saturday was swan time. The front that had brought us the wind had brought Canada and North Dakota the cold...we woke up to TWICE as many birds as the day before. Literally millions of geese, hundreds of thousands of ducks, and the slough we'd chosen held about 150 swans which is unheard of. The others in our group had killed their swans so they would be instrumental in fooling several million sets of eyes. The north wind had pushed the majority of the birds to the North end of the mile long slough...that's where we needed to be because the birds were likely going to exit into the wind and out the narrow end (500 yards wide) of the pond. Before daylight we slipped down the road between two bodies of water with cattails grown up on either side. The perfect place to hide. Willie told us to be very selective in firing our first shot...once we did the gig was up and the rest of the swans would go the other direction. He said "you will be tempted beyond belief...don't freaking shoot until it's a layup". He was right. The rest of our crew headed to the south end of the lake. At legal shooting light they started waylaying the mallards...once they did a million feet started slapping the water getting out of there. I'm not exaggerating here...one million snows and blues started heading out the north end of the slough. They came in waves...10' off the deck. Some you could have swatted with a gun barrell! It was literally like something off national geographic...it was deafening. Mallards zipped past the geese, teal dodged the big birds, I picked at least 50 eagle headed blues with white all the way up their breast that I would have loved to add to the goose wall. Then the swans started coming. The first bunch was way too high... I crossed my fingers hoping the kid's adrenaline was in check. The second group of 5 was lower. I waited for the layup. The third bunch...about two stories up...mine. My first shot hit the swan...he didn't flinch...second shot brought him down but he was still at it. I shot him three more times on the water before his 3' neck laid down. I hear the boy shooting. I look over to see a swan falling. I watched the second and third shot both hit the swan on the way down. He hit the water swimming. Like a pro the kid reloaded in a flash and hammered him three more times and the head goes down! The birds are still piling out of there... We still had a tag each...I see the kid running the 75 yards of road toward me. I run towards him thinking his gun had jammed or something was wrong. He says "I GOT HIM! I GOT HIM!!!" I said "Heck yes you did RELOAD RELOAD...kill another one!"
Well Willie was right...the rest headed west out of the slough. Who cared? We'd just witnessed a once in a lifetime exodus of millions of birds and killed our two swans. We're high fiving and ogling over these enormous birds when I look up and see two more coming 20' off the water. We hit the deck and they couldn't have come over us any more perfectly. The boy stands up and way lays the biggest one and I pop the other. Incredible morning to behold. [img]http://i558.photobucket.com/albums/...clhzb.jpg
A trip for the ages. One that I will never forget and time spent with the boy...strike that...young man that I wouldn't trade for a million bucks.