I don't think I slept a wink the night before our first day of duck hunting at Jimmy Robinson's Sports Afield Duck Club, in St Ambroise, Manitoba. The beds were comfortable, those gorgeous HBC wool blankets were warm, the lodge was so beautifully quiet as everyone slept- everyone but myself, of course.
Oh, I was vibrating with excitement, worry, anticipation and more. Although hunting waterfowl is certainly a honoured family tradition, this would be my first time hunting ducks. I had no idea what was forthcoming. I already knew – thanks to my Dad having avidly hunted the Delta in his younger days when we lived in Manitoba – that hunting on the Delta Marsh is unlike most duck hunting. This isn't a field with decoys, nor a small body of water.
The Delta Marsh is the pinnacle of duck hunting, I was assured by all the experienced hunters at the lodge I had met on Sunday.
Nothing I did after this was going to compare they said, because for my first time duck hunting, I was experiencing the best there ever was.
Talk about high expectations for the next day.
We woke up at 430 the next morning, a good 30 minutes before the scheduled “cow bell” wake-up call that you will receive each morning from Dave. Yes, a cow bell, rung up and down the hallways of the bunks rooms, letting everyone know it's time to get up and have breakfast.
Once you're up, coffee is already on and waiting for you in the kitchen.You have to time sit down and wake up a little bit before tackling the delicious hot breakfast that is served up from the lodge's kitchen.
You know the night before each hunt what guide you are paired with and our first guide was Al.Al is an active RCMP officer in Winnipeg who takes off time every fall to continue his family's tradition of guiding hunters in the Delta Marsh.
You are out and on the marsh in the dark, well before the sun even tries to make an appearance over the eastern horizon.
The journey our first morning to where we were hunting was incredible. Al had been out for eight hours the night before, making sure that the paths were still accessible, reinforcing water that was too deep for a quad with wooden bridges he concocted and more. The work that he put into this was incredible. He scouts out a position, then proceeds to make a route to it that he can take hunters to.
I'll take you through the daylight pictures I took on the way back of the incredible trek.
We started out by truck, then when the truck can no longer safely make it, Al hooked up a trailer to his quad and pulled us and the assorted gear to the next location.
He'd always make sure we didn't fall out 😉 you never know with newbie duck hunters.
At the next location, the trailer is left when the going gets too rough for it.
This is where we headed out, a single, narrow path through the real marsh. One at a time, with gear strapped to the quad, Al took us out to the next stop, at the water's edge in the marsh. This was some greasy going at some points. Deeper water, sludge, mud, it put the quad to work hauling two people and gear.
And the trek isn't done yet!
Al had scoped out a perfect little peak reaching out into the bay of a small marsh lake (which would be considered a full sized lake here in Alberta haha!) that was only accessible by boat. So we loaded up our gear into his wooden, flat bottomed boat.Yet another tradition for the Metis guides, all of their boats are the same hand-made wooden “marsh boats” that have been used for years. The importance of the hunting traditions of the Metis families in the area of the Delta Marsh is mind boggling and worth another post, not just a passing mention. I'll touch on that soon.
Al rowed us out to the point he had scouted previously and we set up, all before the light of day hit us.
Al soundlessly rowed the marsh boat and placed the decoys in the water. We hunkered down quietly awaiting the ducks that would start flying come daybreak.
See what I mean by a “small” marsh lake? This is truly just a bay in the marsh.
I miss having water like this around me. Oh, how lucky Manitoban's are. Whenever I am back in Manitoba I am wistful and envious at the same time.
The ducks came. In droves, in squadrons, in armies. Beautiful blue bills as shown below. Buffleheads, spooners, pintails and teals we filled our limit in less than two hours, which was 8 ducks each.
Complete duck hunting newbies managed to limit out in about an hour and a half and I might add, I consider myself fairly new with my shotgun skills. As well as I did at shooting clays the night before, it's not even close to what it takes to shoot a duck.
Al hardly had to call any ducks in, though he did call some. We'd turn our backs for a second and there would be more flying in to the decoys (pictured on the water above) .Coffee break? HA! We didn't have a second to have a hot chocolate or a sandwich that the ladies in the kitchen pack for you each day.
There was too much excitement for us. I looked at my sister and said “How is anything ever going to compare to this ever again?”
Our very first duck hunting experience has set the bar very, very high indeed. There was no one else around us. We could hear other shots from afar, but this huge pristine bay was all ours for the hunting, a precious rarity indeed.
With our beautiful bounty of ducks in hand we set off on the journey back through the marsh and back to the lodge.
The view of the marsh when coming back in daylight was stunning.
I insisted on the traditional hunting pictures, all that is missing is my shotgun in hand! Jimmy Robinson's has the requisite duck wall for pictures of your hard-earned ducks.
Oh, was our Dad proud to see these pictures and that made the trip ever so special, knowing how proud he was of us continuing our own family tradition that he taught us when we were younger. I can't wait until my own kids are old enough to come out with my and continue the tradition of hunting.
We ended up with some spooners, a pintail, baffleheads, bluebills and teals. Now, while some hunters are very particular in their waterfowl and choose to shoot only a particular species, I had no such crazy qualms.
I was so darn excited to be able to see 5 different types of ducks my first shoot. This is the nature lover in me, a disparity that most non-hunters most likely will never understand. I love animals, nature, the wild and outdoors and yet I choose to hunt. I choose to eat meat. I like to know where the food on my plate has come from and take great pride in providing it for myself and my family in a kinder, far more ethical way than most meat these days is produced.
So yes, to see each type of duck that I shot was a fabulous part of this experience as well. To handle them and see their different feathers, builds, coloring and attributes was just as exciting as the hunt was .Knowing I would have ducks in my freezer to cook that I myself had hunted was the icing on the cake.
Yup, I wasn't nearly excited enough.
Oh, I can't wait to cook up the ducks I have in my freezer, but I have at least four more posts to write about my duck hunting trip!
Stay tuned for the next post. Day Two of duck hunting! Those were some hard-earned ducks that day, my friends, and you'll soon read why!
Now An Official Duck Huntress Karlynn