With teal season over and duck season open in the central part of Kansas, I jumped at the chance to get a few days of duck hunting in when I was lucky enough to be invited to a good friend Marc Murrell’s annual duck camp again this year. With my work schedule I was able to schedule several meeting in Central KS and justify driving out and meeting Marc at Cheyenne bottoms for a couple of day in the Marsh.
Day one found me working at home in the morning and driving out to Cheyenne to meet the guys with plans of an afternoon hunt. They had all been out hunting that morning and when I pulled into the camp ground the steady sound of snoring was all I could here. So instead of waiting around for them to get up I decided to drive around the marsh and see if I could find a hunt-able spot with a few birds. With this being my first time in my adult life to be at Cheyenne I decided to drive the whole place just to check everything out as well as a nice stop at the education center. If you have never been to the bottoms it’s just an amazing complex of wetlands. The vast area of water that is available in this complex is just amazing. You drive for miles and see nothing but flooded grass with the occasional group of ducks swooping in and out of grass not caring if it’s refuge or hunting pool.
To set the stage for the trip I was hunting on the hottest day/week of September so far. 80 degrees with stiff 30 mph south wind gusting to 40. As I was scouting I was lucky enough to find a spot close to one of the refuges that had multiple groups of teal crossing the dike and landing just on the back side of it out of the wind in one of the hunting pools just behind some of the taller grass that was creating two natural wind breaks. Even thought this spot was very close to the road and way to easy to get to the shear number of ducks using this little spot made think I should give it go. My brain kept telling me this should be harder but I kept things go where the birds want to be not where you think they should be. It took me a few minutes to get my gear organized and off I went. The walk was only about 50 yards off the road but it didn’t take long to remember how much fun it is to walk in the marsh with a load of decoys and ankle deep mud in 80 degree temps at 2 pm in the afternoon. I will be honest with you I sweat through a full shirt before I even started setting up decoys. On a happier note all I did was kick teal up out of just about every little piece of brush on the way to the spot I wanted to hunt. Once I got there about 500 Blue Wings came out of this little sheltered spot. I just had to ask myself if this the public side of the pool?
Even as I was tossing out decoys several groups of blue wing’s tried to land in my decoys so it didn’t take long for me to get the decoys out, put on my ghillie suit and tuck into the brush. It didn’t take long for the first group of birds to swing into my decoys, bang – birds, in 30 minutes I selectively had 4 blue wings in 4 shots. Since I had driven all the way from Lenexa to hunt I decided to enjoy this a little more full well knowing that the ducks always shot off at some point and this type of decision seems to bite me in the ass most of the time. I spent the next two hours just watching blue wing after blue wing with the occasional shovler cruise in and out of my decoys. I could have easily taken my other two birds but I wanted to see if any other big ducks happened to fly to close. During this time Marc woke up from his nap and drove down to see how I was doing. He couldn’t believe I was seeing so many birds and had to check it out for himself. As he pulled up he called me to inform me that I was hunting on the wrong side of the dike… HA HA just kidding, but I was sweating it for a few seconds. While he was there I literally had 3 groups of ducks land in the decoys while I was talking to him on the phone. I also got scraped bye 6 woods ducks, they where in and out so fast I only got one shot off and did pulled feathers on a nice drake but he didn’t seem any worse for the ware as he zipped over the marsh for the next few minutes. As the sun was starting to set I made a decision to finish my limit on the next birds that come in. The next group was of course 3 Shovlers, so I picked on the one drake I could ID and put him down with a clean shot. Just a few minutes later a nice little group of teal tried to land and gave me an easy 6th duck. 5 Blue Wing teal and 1 Shovler to start the 2013 regular duck season! At 5:30 I picked up the decoys and headed on over to meet Marc and the guys at the spoonbill lounge for dinner and drinks. What a great day in the Marsh!
5 AM came fast the next morning; actually it came slowly as I lay awake unable to sleep in a strange bed but what’s new. The plan on day two was to hit the marsh in Marc’s boat the “Cluster Duck” for a hunt at a spot Marc had found in middle of one of the pools during teal season. We got organized lanched the boat and headed out in the maze of grass and water. Luckily Marc has hunted out here for years and knows his way around since the only real way to navigate the complex at night is either stars or GPS…Marc has a GPS so after 15 minutes of motoring out we came to our morning destination. Now I was told that the bird numbers where down and very stagnant because of the weather but it’s always something amazing to seeing a marsh come alive in the morning. After we got the decoys out and brushed up the boat we had a good 20 minutes to enjoy the show. There where ducks and shore birds all around us dipping, diving and quacking as the sun came up. Once LST hit the action was slow but steady, there always seemed to be a group or two in the air somewhere but for the most part they had other plans than our decoys for most of the morning. I was in the middle of the boat and Marc was on one side and his good friend Kent occupied the other. For the most part we picked off teal as they would come into our decoys or pass too close to the boat. The added bonus was watching Marc’s Lab Gator pull off some fine fetches on downed birds as well as doubles and cripples. The highlight of the morning happened when 3 widgeon lined up and made a great run into our decoys. Marc reminded us to shoot our lanes as the bird came in giving each of us a bird; as they finished we rose and all 3 birds hit the water almost in unison. It’s always fund when a plans comes together. I was able to pick off my first Widgeon and Green Wing Teal of the year on the second morning. With the bird movement slowing and I having work meetings 2 hours south later that day we packed it in early and head back to camp. I headed off to work as Marc and the guys fluffed their pillows for their lunch time nap…
Day 3 brought an overnight thunderstorm with heaving lightening and wind that shook things up to say the least. Safe in Marc’s camper I was able to ride out the storms that produced very close lightening but still sleep was not my friend before or after the storm. The night before we formulated a plan to go hunt my little honey hole from day one since the bird movement had not been overly heavy and the big ducks had already figured out the game and where not really working the marsh. Marc, Dan Croft and I headed to the marsh to set up getting the decoys out just as LST was hitting. With-in minutes the Blue Wing’s started working us over! We had birds behind us, birds in front of us and in-between us and going every direction in-between and to top it off the wind was blowing 30 out of the south making those little grey darts a little more of a challenge but the shear number of birds around yielded some of the finest wing shooting I have seen in years. Marc was the first to fill his 6 bird limit in about 20 minutes closing out him morning on a great 20 yard crossing shot pulling out the last bird in the flock on one shot. I followed up with my 6th bird shortly after and our other hunting partner Dan Croft made two great shots on a shovler and a Green wing to finish out our 18 bird limit by 8 AM. What a way to close out my trip. After we finished out our limit, we sat in the marsh a little longer just to enjoy the sights and sounds of the birds working us. Eventually we picked up the decoys and sweated our way back to the road only to see several groups landing right back where we where, I guess we found a good spot. As an added bonus on the trip back to the camp ground we saw several roosters and a small group of baby pheasants on the side of the road. That’s more birds in two miles than I have seen in the last two years.
Again the 2013 duck camp was more than I expected, as well as my first trip to Cheyenne Bottoms it was trip I will soon try to replicate.