Here's my report. Man, hunting was TOUGH, to say the least. It's been insanely warm & very few mallards & no geese had migrated down yet, so it was slim pickins. Just like everyone else has said, scouting is key. We had 3 rigs scouting/pheasant hunting every day. Just myself, drake-taker & aggieduck covered a little over 800 miles in 5 days & didn't scout at all yesterday cuz we're leaving this am. I bet as a group we put over 1500 miles on looking for birds. But it paid off. We weren't able to find any good field hunts & goose numbers were close to non-existant, which was a big bummer. Pheasants were WAY down from last year. We put on a lot of boot miles & never came close to filling all our rooster limits, which is extremely unusual. Here's the day-to-day breakdown.
Left the San Antonio area around 3am. Picked up drake-taker & aggieduck & on we went. Drove straight through, alternating drivers every fill up.
Arrived in our hunting area right at daybreak. First spot we stopped at, a refuge, was absolutely loaded with divers & gray ducks but very few malls. Started driving. Every once in a while if we found a pair of malls we'd stop & jump em. Also pushed a few good-looking pheasant sloughs with limited success. Ended with 5 malls, a bunch of gray ducks & 4 roosters. Couldn't find a concentration of malls or honkers
Scouting & more scouting. Drove pretty much all day, with a few stops for roosters. We jumped a nice group of Hungarian partridge & aggieduck was able to get his first Hun. Ended ended with 2 ducks, a Hun & 5 roosters
A buddy & his bro showed up, as did my dad & his hunting partner Pat. Drove drove & drove some more. Found a few small groups of malls but nothing more than 30-40 birds. Didn't jump shoot any malls Friday. Ended up with only 3 gads that we jumped cuz we were tired of sitting in the car & had to shoot something!! Got around 10 roosters. My bud found a nice concentration of malls using a series of 4-5 potholes, right next to each other. Plan was to set myself, drake-taker & aggieduck on a pond, 2 guys on another, & 2 guys on another pond. My dad also found another pothole with around 1000 malls using it. However, 5 other guys also found it. Thankfully they were decent guys & were willing to let my dad & his partner hunt it too
Had a great shoot. Shot around 20 malls, a couple pins, a couple redheads & a dumb shoveler in our area & my dad & his bud shot their limit with a big banded drake. Sadly, 2 of the guys set up on the wrong pond (they're rookies, friends of mine that just joined us for today) & only shot 3 geese, 3 buffs & 2 drake ringers. Ended up with I think 12 roosters too. I've never had malls respond to a call like they did this day. All the birds wanted to be in the south end of our pothole & we were on the north side, around 4-500 yards away. As we all know that usually ends in a real frustrating day. They'd be cupped up, dumping in the far side of the slough, I'd get on the call, give em a few high-balls & they'd make a 90 right for us. A few quacks & a little chuckling & it was feet down, committed. After we shot em they'd fly to my 2 buds, they'd shoot em, then they'd go to the pond my other buds were supposed to be at. After the hunt there was around 1000 birds piled up right where we told em to set. Oops. After that it was more driving & pheasant hunting
I wanted to hunt with my dad so we went back to the pond they shot at on Sat. Only had 30-40 malls come in but they decoyed great & we were able to just pick drakes. Shot my first band too, a gorgeous greenhead. Aggieduck, my bud & his bro went back to the pond we shot Sat & jumped em when they went in. Sadly they never returned & they zeroed, only 1 shot fired. A few roosters were shot but not much.
We found the drake pin dead in the lake. The other guys hunting the pond must of lost it, so we grabbed it.
All in all, it was hands-down the toughest nodak trip I've ever had, both for waterfowl & rooster. It had some great highs & pretty rough lows (esp waking up a few mornings after having a little too much fun the night before with buds I haven't seen since I left nodak) but being able to talk all those malls into our dekes & getting my first band definitely made the trip worthwhile. Until next year North Dakota!! I'm already looking forward to it