Plentiful greenheads and picturesque scenes make for memorable hunting
The predawn silence was interrupted by the sound of whistling wings and chuckling quacks. A large group of mallards circled overhead, their feathers cutting the air like a knife. It was so still they sounded like mini-jet planes, as they cupped their wings against the dew-filled air to land among our decoys on the pond.
None of us moved a muscle. We stayed hunkered down in our layout blinds, tightening the grip on our shotguns and waiting for the signal, as it wasn’t quite yet legal shooting time. The birds, unaware of our presence, continued to funnel out of the sky and into the hole, which had a thin layer of ice beginning to form around its edges in the frigid air of the morning.
Finally, the golden hour arrived. Someone hollered, “Take ‘em!” Safeties clicked off, shotgun blasts let out in threes, and steel BBs cut feathers. The retrievers immediately plunged into the chilly water and went to work, as we reloaded and slid back into our coffin-like hideaways. As I watched the next wave of greenheads approaching, I thought to myself, “This Kansas cornfield, duck-hole stuff was all right.”
The scene described above took place in December last year in the middle of a corn field, just outside of Hunter, Kansas, which is in the north central part of the state. Those few minutes were just the beginning of a three-day hunt with Midwest outfitter Maxxed Out Guides. I was pretty sure our initial volley had set the table for what would turn out to be a waterfowl hunting trip for the memory books. As luck would have it, I was right.
I was fortunate enough to had been brought along as the photographer for the trip by some customers and friends, and the photo opportunities were plentiful. For the rest of the first morning, we enjoyed some of the finest, in-your-face decoying action from plump mallards most of us had ever experienced.
As the sun rose, the colorful feathers on the ducks lit up against the background of the blue sky. It was like watching an art show every single time a wad of mallards dropped into the hole. When the dust settled, fist bumps and full straps were enjoyed by all.
On day two of the trip, the weather proved to be a little more sporting. The temperature didn’t get much above 30 degrees and the wind was pretty stiff. Luckily, we all had donned appropriate gear. The guides had an ice heater going in the pond so the birds would have open water to land in when they became fooled by our decoys. As sunrise approached, the number of incoming ducks quickly made us forget about the cold.
Mallards floated into the sweet spot for the next two hours, and both duck dogs had their work cut out for them. Limits came easy, and another outstanding hunt was in the books.
The most memorable day from our trip was, without a doubt, our third and final one. We awoke at the camp house where we were staying to several inches of snow on the ground, and it still was coming down as we got into the field where we would be hunting. This time, we were set up on the bank of a much larger body of water, compared to where we had hunted the previous two mornings.
Sheets of ice lined the bank of the pond, and everything was covered in pure white snow. We had full-bodied decoys set out along the bank and a few floater decoys situated along the edge of the ice. In the midst of the winter-wonderland-like scene, the most impressive part of our last morning hunt was how many mallards were in the air over the pond we were hunting at sunrise. If I had to guess, I’d have to say it was close to 1,000 or so. There were hordes of them.
The guides kept their patience and only called shots on smaller groups of greenheads that worked right over our decoys, providing us with easy wing-shooting opportunities. It didn’t take long to fill straps, and coming from the Texas coast, there was just something special about doing it in the snow. That was the perfect end to an incredible adventure.
It’s never too early to start thinking about hunting season. If you’re interested in waterfowl hunting outside of Texas this year, I would highly recommend exploring the options and opportunities that Kansas has to offer, especially if you want to chase greenheads.