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The Northwoods River News | Rhinelander, Wisconsin

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October 22, 2019

10/5/2019 7:30:00 AM
Natural reaction
Opening day dilemma
Jacob Friede
Of the Lakeland Times

If there's one thing I've noticed about the duck season, as it progresses and the temperatures get colder and colder, the amount of boats at the launch in the morning diminish greatly.

But on opening day, with warm weather and the long wait for the season finally over, the launches are usually packed.

This year I woke up extra early and it paid off. My headlights shined on an empty parking lot as I approached the launch and I had my pick of spots on the lake.

That is the perfect start to a season.

But still I had no time to waste. I row a kayak and therefore all it would take was a boat with a motor to show up and beat me to the spot I was headed.

I have my system down though and was loaded and on the water in minutes, rowing through a pitch-black, dark, cloudy sky.

My headlamp offered a few feet of light, but for the most part I was moving by memory. I was heading to the entrance of a bay where the land jutted out into a peninsula. The spot was ideal for decoy placement, being out into the lake and able to attract birds from either side of the point.

I had been to the spot once before and I'd been envisioning it for months. Imagining mallards circling over the point and dropping in the decoys. And though I didn't shoot any the last time I was there, I saw enough ducks fly by for me to trust it.

But as I rowed along I realized I had never considered the opposite point across the bay. It jutted out even further into the lake and would better attract birds flying off the main basin.

As I approached my intended spot I was in a dilemma. Take the spot I knew or try a new location, across the bay, and find a good set-up place in the pitch-dark.

My instincts were saying try the new spot. My caution was telling me it could end in disaster. Say I don't find a place to set-up and then someone comes and takes my original location.

For a couple minutes I debated this before I decided to trust caution and stay with the spot I knew.

Five minutes later a vehicle pulled into the boat launch parking lot. Not long after two boats cruised past me, across the bay right to the spot I had almost went to.

I would find out if I made the right choice.

The time waiting in the darkness went fast. Before I knew it, fading light startled me out of the still, quiet spell I was under.

And then before too long I heard it.

Bam! Bam! Bam!

The shotguns across the bay went off. Then I heard duck calls. Then more shooting. Then more calls. Then more shooting.

This went on all morning.

From my location I could not even see the ducks they were calling, and the ones I did see cruised right over my decoys and over to theirs.

They were in the right place at the right time. The place I could've been. And all I could do was listen.

I could hear their cheers and them commanding the dog to retrieve, and then I'd hear the splash of the retriever hit the water. The whole glorious scene.

But amongst all that I could also hear a kid was with them and when I realized how awesome of a morning he must be having, I began rooting for them.

With each shotgun blast, rather than envious, I was excited for their whole crew.

It's mornings like they were having that made me a life-long duck hunter, and it probably sealed the deal for the kid.

Looking at it like that, I didn't chose the wrong spot at all.

Jacob Friede may be reached at or

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232 S. Courtney Street, Rhinelander, WI 54501 | Office (715) 365-6397 | Fax (715) 365-6361

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