Opening Day on the Saginaw River and Houghton Lake

It’s the second year in a row Sam and I had the opportunity to open the waterfowl season up together. This year was going to be a little more exciting; as we got to hunt two days earlier than normal by heading up to Houghton Lake for the Middle Zone opener here in Michigan, and our good friend Brian Edwards would be joining us. Brian is no slouch when it comes to waterfowl hunting and was a huge part of the success we had hunting up in that area.

We left Brian’s place in Mount Pleasant around 2:30am, and made the trek towards Houghton Lake for the day. Now this would be 3 years in a row that Sam hasn’t slept the night before opening day, and it would prove to be a valuable superstition or good omen, however you want to look at it. So, since we were all slaphappy tired and on the road to busting ducks I think you can imagine how this car ride north went.

Brian had spent a lot of time on Google maps doing our patented internet scouting since we cant always get out and scout the traditional way with work and classes. So he had a few locations picked out for us to hunt, and we would be making the decision on the fly of which spot to hunt once we got up there. Once up to Houghton we decided to hunt a flooding a mile or two from actual Houghton Lake. We got Brian’s nice 16’ Mod-V duck boat in the water and loaded up for what was sure to be a morning of making our shotguns go boom! I think we made it about 50 yards from the boat launch before we hit our first stump in the dark almost tossing me like a rag doll out the side of the boat. Sam was up front with a weak powered light trying to find stumps hidden below the water. This proved to not work well at all, as my head is bouncing off the gun rails in the back of the boat just hanging on for dear life. We immediately turned the boat around and headed for shore. As much as I would have loved to hunt this ‘ducky’ area, I really didn’t feel like swimming at 4am and neither did Brian nor Sam.

Once we finally got the boat back on the trailer and all loaded up we headed for the Muskegon River. We dropped the Mod-V boat in the river and again, we were off. Racing down the river, Brian was taking the bends like a seasoned NASCAR veteran, only we did have a couple right hand turns in there. Once we made it to the hunting location we began throwing decoys out and getting the boat blind situated. It was an absolute killer spot. We were situated right on a bend where another river fed into the Muskegon River. We had an abnormally large landing zone for the ducks as opposed to just hunting a stretch of the river. After we were all set, the waiting game started, but it wouldn’t be too long before our shotties were saying boom all morning.

Just like most duck hunters experience, we had action in the deeks well before legal shoot time. Chomping at the bit we waited for Brian’s call, “it’s time boys, take em!” Now the hunting on the river wasn’t as good as we had hoped for. The one thing on everybody’s mind was the motor. Just as we had pulled into our spot and began to tuck the boat away, the motor cut out. We struggled with it to get it started again while I was tossing the deeks out. Brian and Sam decided it wasn’t worth it at the time and we should just hunt. I agreed. After knocking a few birds down it was time to retrieve em. This would prove to be mighty difficult without a working motor.

After about 30 minutes of using the decoy retriever pole to hang onto the cattails on the edge of the river, Brian and Sam finally got the motor fired up. Everyone was so flustered about being stuck on the river that we hadn’t noticed wires had gotten unplugged with the constant on and off of the motor cover. I believe we knocked down two birds that morning, but the best part was getting the motor started, and not having to float the river down stream hoping to run into a Good Samaritan.

Finally back to the boat launch, we secured our gear and bee-lined it for the nearest restaurant to warm up and fuel up for the nights hunt. We met some other fellow hunters in the restaurant that had hunted the lake that morning, but to no avail. Although the morning reports didn’t seem promising, Brian was sure of our spot for the afternoon hunt. We gobbled our lunches down, watched my Spartans beat up on some Purdue Boilermakers and enjoyed the company of Sam and Brian before we were wading the shore of Houghton Lake chasing ducks yet again.

This was a pretty cool spot. We sat on the shore of Houghton Lake looking out over the water. We ran two mojo’s, about 3-4 dozen duck deeks and half a dozen goose floaters. Our first encounter was a single Mallard, which flew straight at us. I unfortunately missed this duck as he was on a mission to get the hell out of Houghton! We knocked down a pair of Mallards shortly after my miss. Then that’s when we heard the honking. Sam and Brian immediately grabbed their goose calls and began honking and clucking. Me being the terrible goose caller in the group; I had time to swap out my Hevi-shot #4’s for my Hevi-shot Speedball BB’s. Sam and Brian did a tremendous job of working these Canadas into the spread. Just like that 3 of them with their landing gear down began to coast right into the center of our spread. All I heard was “let em have it boys!” before everything became drowned out under the sound of 3.5” shells exploding. It was textbook. Sam and Brian had worked em into the spread and the three of us finished the job.

All in all for opening day we bagged 4 ducks and 3 geese between the three of us. Not a tremendous showing, but any waterfowl hunter who is after just full straps and limits isn’t doing it right. The mishap with the motor, the good food and company for lunch as well as the countless great conversations we had that day is why we do it. Driving home with a few ducks we shot, well that is just a bonus on an already amazing start to the 2015 waterfowl season here in Michigan.


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