January Montana Goldeneyes on the Missouri
Broadwater County lies within the Pacific Flyway which means that our waterfowl season closes tomorrow. A sad day indeed. In an effort to shorten the length of time we have to wait until we can hunt waterfowl again my son, Wade, and I have been enduring the cold of the last few days and chasing Goldeneyes on the Missouri River. Late season waterfowl hunting over open water tests equipment, dogs and warm clothing to the maximum. This year we have put some Sitka and Drake clothing to the test and will be commenting on our impressions in future blogs. We love late season waterfowling.
Goldeneyes respond wonderfully to Goldeneye decoys. There's nothing like a drake Goldeneye coming into the decoys with no hesitation and no slow stall exhibited by puddle ducks. This year we started using a long line on our decoys which has been a life saver with the flow ice which is common at this time of the year. In years past we have spent an inordinate amount of time trying to keep decoys in place and keep the ice off of them. This year has been a breeze. I don't know why it took us so long to try this.
Our first morning we were greeted by thick mist rising from the river and thick flow ice. While we searched for a place to set our decoys we could hear almost constant whistling characteristic of Goldeneyes in flight overhead. By the time we got set up though the flight had ended and there were not too many birds moving. The day was cold and clear so after shooting only one drake Goldeneye we packed it in and went on a reconnaissance mission. We found a number of birds sitting up river from where we were set up so we decided to hunt there the next morning. On our way back home we stopped and jump shot a small warm spring near town collecting five drake mallards so the dogs would have some retrieves.
The next morning (January 15) was five degrees colder than yesterday (5 Fahrenheit) with a slight overcast but we were in place and ready to go by first light. We had a number of hens land in our decoys but since we try only to shoot drakes we let them leave unscathed. The shooting proved to be steady. The dogs did a great job for us. Elle is just coming off a litter and this was her first duck hunt since weaning her pups. She did not complain about the cold at all, and made several great retrieves out of the river.
It never ceases to amaze us how Goldeneyes can appear out of thin air and the speed at which they fly and maneuver. They are a delight. Several times we were surprised by birds in the decoys although both of us were watching intently.
When hunting a river such as the Missouri one never knows what might come along next. There are plenty of geese and mallards in the area to assure there's never a dull moment.
Since joining the Ultimate Waterfowl Challenge (UWC) we have been more conscious of the variety of species that we harvest. The UWC is an organization which identifies 41 North American waterfowl species that are harvestable by sportsmen and women. Since we are hunting in the Pacific Flyway we know that Barrow's Goldeneye in addition to Common Goldeneye are possible. Although we have never harvested one of the former we know they are around and so we have been searching for one to add to our cumulative total of species harvested. Today we spotted one and will be attempting to add him to our bag along with some of his friends tomorrow. We will keep you posted and the hunt goes on.