WILTZ: Of late, my duck hunting has been on the back burner, and here’s whyThe early April fishing on Francis Case Reservoir has been phenomenal. I firmly believe that years from now, we’ll be talking about the fishing in 2011 and 2012. While the window for walleyes thus far has been open for the 15-20 minutes that follow sundown, smallmouth bass and northern pike have hit with abandon all day.
By: Roger Wiltz, The Daily Republic
The early April fishing on Francis Case Reservoir has been phenomenal. I firmly believe that years from now, we’ll be talking about the fishing in 2011 and 2012. While the window for walleyes thus far has been open for the 15-20 minutes that follow sundown, smallmouth bass and northern pike have hit with abandon all day.
Much of our success has come with tube jigs fished slowly in 6- to 8-feet of water. Earlier this year, I talked about fishing jigs tied directly to my line without getting sheared off by northern pike. So far, so good with fluorocarbon line. Even with very sheer 6-pound test Berkley Vanish, we’ve landed eight pike, some of them quite large, without being cut off.
Pike supposedly spawn right after ice out. Not this year. Pike caught on April 11 were still full of eggs.
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It bothers me I’m not the waterfowl hunter I used to be. My little olive drab colored john boat is the best duck boat I’ve ever owned, and still I don’t take advantage of it. Brian McCombie’s story “Are Waterfowl Hunters Taking a Dive?” in the April 2012 issue of American Hunter really struck a personal nerve, as I’m one of the guys Brian is talking about.
The waterfowl hunter alarm was initially triggered by a report out of Canada that showed waterfowl hunter numbers down 70 percent from the 1970s to the late 1990s. In his article, McCombie suggests that the 1991 ban on lead shot was partially responsible as it pushed some hunters out of waterfowl hunting. Based on the calls and letters I received at that time about the ineffectiveness of steel shot, I would agree.
Hunter numbers continued to decline. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service surveys found a 27 percent drop in American waterfowl hunters from 2001 to 2006. An interesting thing about the USFWS survey was that the hunters didn’t quit hunting. They just quit hunting waterfowl.
Other than the non-toxic shot issue, McCombie gives two additional reasons for the decline in waterfowl hunter numbers that I think are right on.
Hunter surveys have shown that increased work hours and family obligations have cut into hunting time. With the time limitations, hunters have chosen the hunt that is easiest to do. For many this is deer hunting or pheasant hunting. Pheasant hunting is really easy. As McCombie says, “You just grab your shotgun and go out and walk.”
Baby boomers, the huge chunk of our population that was born in the aftermath of World War II, are also a part of the equation. They are now 60 years old or older, and getting out to the waterfowl slough is not as easy as it was when they were 30 years old. As mentioned, these appear to be valid reasons.
I believe there is fourth valid reason for the decline, and that is the growing number of non-traditional or single-parent families. The single parent doesn’t have time for such diversions as hunting. If you question my line of thinking, start looking at birth announcements in the paper. The last names of the moms and dads are too often different. Yes, I do realize that some of these babies are wanted and even planned.
My personal waterfowl hunting has dropped off for a less complicated reason. Betsy and I don’t like waterfowl, and giving away ducks and geese is far more difficult than it was 40 years ago. Like some friends, I could solve the problem by becoming more creative. On a Canadian fishing trip last summer, one of the guys brought along some goose jerky that was outstanding.
I must talk about an exception to our not liking waterfowl on the table. Early last winter, my good friend Jerry, Betsy and I were invited to a home in the Lakeview Colony north of Lake Andes for Sunday dinner.
The main entrée, tame roast duck, had been sent over to the house from the main kitchen. Unlike the wild duck we have tried to prepare in the past, it was moist and juicy, and literally fell from the bone. The taste was exquisite. If I remember correctly, it was stuffed with absolutely awesome homemade sour kraut. Like bacon and eggs or chicken and dumplings, kraut and duck were meant to be served together.
The duck had been prepared by our host’s mother. In picking his brain as to how this superb duck had been prepared, we learned that the duck had been boiled prior to roasting in the oven. Certainly there’s more to it than that, but the boiling might account for the moistness.
It was a super day. I became acquainted with the individual home setting and well-behaved children who enjoyed reading and were not held captive by TV sets or addicted to iPod games. The technology in the manufacturing areas was second to none. I relished the Christian atmosphere. In short, visiting a Lakeview home was an awesome experience.
If I’m fortunate enough to bag a fat northern mallard next fall, I plan to apply what I’ve learned about that domestic Lakeview duck, and see if we can put a more tasty wild duck on our dinner table.
*See you next week.