ERIE — The Arctic weather that blew in toward the end of deer season pretty much shut down duck hunting. But when it warmed up a bit the first week of December, Joe Robison was hot to get back into his waders.
There’s a little creek that flows into the marsh at Lake Erie that often holds ducks when the lakes are locked up, Robison explained, and with a little luck, we’d be able to get some shooting. So well before sunrise, Robinson and I were carrying gear across a frozen field to the creek.
Problem was, it hadn’t been warm enough, long enough, to completely re-open the creek. There were a couple of small pools in what was otherwise a frozen landscape. But we were there, so we pitched a couple decoys into a hole, broke the ice along the bank to float a few more, then hunkered down in the phragmites to see what would happen.
Robison’s hunch turned out to be right; the birds flew down the creek from upstream and a couple looked to pitch in — though there wasn’t a lot of open water for them to work with. Which would have been fine except for one detail — the birds arrived before shooting time, either winging on past us, or splashing into an opening and then leaving in short order.
Right at legal shooting time (half hour before sunrise) a black duck cupped up over the decoys. Robison shot it. A minute later, a mallard came winging by and I took it. That was it.
For the next hour we discussed all thing of interest — from fishing to football — while waiting for the ducks that never arrived.
“Usually they’ll filter back a few at a time,” said Robison, a wildlife biologist who runs the Pte. Mouilee State Game Area and oversees all the managed waterfowl areas in southern Michigan for the Department of Natural Resources. “I didn’t expect it to be fast and furious, but I figured we’d be able to shoot six or eight ducks. That’s late-season duck hunting — feast or famine.