The state of Michigan has multiple opening days each year. Sometimes we are lucky enough to have three opening days, but sometimes we have only two. This gives motivated hunters an opportunity to experience the best puddle duck hunting in Michigan over the course of multiple weekends. What better way to start the duck season than to hunt for two or three consecutive weekends and the birds are just as dumb each time you go out?
My uncle has a cabin in the heart of a national forest in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (UP). The UP always has a different opening day than the southern lower peninsula, which is where I reside. A few years ago, my uncle invited some of us “trolls” up for the UP opener. Ecstatic, my cousin and I drove up on a Thursday, hunted grouse on Friday and then ducks for opening morning. This trip has become a tradition for my family and it has been permanently placed on our calendars for the foreseeable future. Not only do we enjoy the phenomenal duck hunting opening morning, but we experience unequalled grouse hunting with around 40 flushes per full day of hunting.
Our family motto is “The family that hunts together, stays together!” It would take a life changing event to prevent our family members from reconvening each fall to share the woods and the blind with our extended family. This year my mom, two uncles and one cousin all made the trip to the UP for the opener.
The weekend started with disappointment when we found out that the road that led to our 4 best grouse spots was closed by the forest service. We spent more time driving and less time hunting than normal on Friday, but still produced six grouse and two woodcock – which are better numbers than we traditionally have done. After a big dinner, we scouted for the evening flight of ducks and laid out the plan for the following morning.
We arrived at our spot and were setup with a few minutes to spare. Low hanging cloud cover provided minimal visibility. The ducks didn’t start flying until 15 minutes after shooting time. The next ten minutes were a flurry of activity that resulted in ten birds in the bag. By the time 10:00 am hit, we had 22 ducks in the bag for the five of us. My cousin and I each had limited out and the old people picked up the other ten birds. The morning hunt provided a mixed bag of greenwing teal, bluewing teal, wood ducks, mallards, black ducks, and wigeon. We called it a day and chased grouse and woodcock for the rest of the day.
We setup Sunday for the second day shoot and picked up four more mallards and a canada goose before packing it up to head back to the south for two more weeks of work before our zone opened up.
When I told my uncles that my wife and I are expecting our first baby in February, the response was simply: “make sure you learn the spots up here so you can bring your son when he gets old enough.” I simply smiled because I know that the opportunities provided by my relatives are because they are more proud of the success of the next generation than their own success. My mother and uncles are almost as excited as I am to see my son take his first bird 11 years from now when he can start hunting. It’s not about how many or how big your trophy is, it’s about enjoying natural renewable resources and passing on the family traditions that have kept your family strong through the tough times.
Thank you to my grandfathers, parents and uncles for passing on the tradition of hunting and teaching me the importance of family and the traditions that we hold.