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Natural reaction

December 06, 2019 by Jacob Friede

A couple weeks ago, I was watching out my window at work as the day got cloudier and windier with each passing hour.

As the weather got more miserable, each minute got longer and longer until I could barely sit still.

The skies were creating perfect duck conditions and I couldn’t wait to get on the lake.

I had a few hours of daylight left after work and I had my gear packed and ready to go.

On my drive to the lake hopes were high. Some days just look perfect for birds to be flying, and the closer I got the more certain I was of good action.  

The day continued to be promising as I approached the lake and saw no other vehicles, guaranteeing me any spot I chose.

So I backed the car up to the edge of the lake and the second I got out I immediately took notice of how cold it was.

Then I turned around and almost fell over in disappointment.

The bay was a clean sheet of ice.

I was crushed. The show was over and I was staring at an empty stage.

The ice was thin, though still too thick to row through to get to the open water that remained out in the main basin of the lake. 

There I could see waves crashing under a stormy sky. Ducks were certain to be riding that wind.

But there was nothing I could do except deal with the cold reality that the season had come to an end.  

Still, I raced for another lake. Same situation. 

And then another. Frozen solid.

Finally I gave up, but I refused to take my gear out of my vehicle.  I was hanging on to some desperate hope that the season would some how carry on and that I would again encounter open water.

But as temperatures continued dropping up north, each glance back at my decoys and waders seemed more useless.

Then I traveled to southern Wisconsin for weekend two of deer hunting and didn’t think twice about checking the lake, assuming, based on the frigid opening morning the previous week that it was locked up.

But lo and behold I got a call from a friend asking if I wanted to go duck hunting. The week had been warm and the entire lake had opened up and there was still two days left in the southern zone season.  

I was ecstatic and the next morning I ditched the blaze orange and grabbed the camouflage still in my car. I had all my gear still ready. It had paid off to be stubborn and hold out hope for another hunt. 

So in the darkness of late November, two friends and I rowed across a bay and set up in the cattails.

Fall and winter were colliding like cold waves on ice coated rocks.

It was freezing out and windy with rain and absolutely wonderful. Just as miserable, if not more than the conditions I was shut out of a couple weeks before and I basked in it.

The birds, however, were not flying. Only a few flocks passed by and none took to the decoy spread. But it was impossible to be disappointed when all I wanted, at that point, was to be out there.  

Jacob Friede may be reached at [email protected] or [email protected]

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