Tag Archives: ducks

Nate’s Journal

The following journal excerpts come from Nate Faulkner, 12, who enjoyed his first trip to North Dakota to hunt the non-resident duck season earlier this month. The trip included his father, Richard, as well as Richard’s friends DeWayne Taylor and Kurt Culbert.

Day 1. We arrive in Fargo, North Dakota at about 11:00 pm central standard time. I’m waiting for my luggage with my Dad and his friend Kurt. The airline opens the oversized luggage window, drop out Kurt’s gun case but not ours. Non of our luggage made it on the plane from Chicago, IL to Fargo ND. We drive to the Hilton Garden Inn in Fargo ND to stay for the night. We had planned to pick up our luggage along with the final member of our hunting party. We slept on great beds, it would be the last time for the entire trip.

Day 2. We wake up early to go and scout for the hunting to come. We ride for a few minutes and pull into a field. All of a sudden the field erupts in a blanket of waterfowl. Ducks are flying everywhere, it is the most ducks I have ever seen. We decided to name it “Nate’s Place”. Everything appeared to be good, that feeling melted when we saw there were crops still in the field. The law in North Dakota states that you can not hunt property that has a posted sign or has crops in the field, without the permission of the land owner. So we drive away and plan to come back later to try and find a house near the field. We ride around and find a few good backup fields in case the owner of what we have called “Nates Place” says no. Next we go back to Fargo to pick up our luggage and the last member of our hunting party, DeWayne. We ride back to “Nates Place” and find a house next to the field. We go up and knock on the door, no answer, we knock again…..no answer. The positive thinking we had is starting to fade. Since no one was home we ride to another house close by. This time someone comes to the door, a lady comes to the door. It turns out she and her husband Dave own the field. She provides us with her husband Dave’s phone number. We wait to call him as he is working at harvesting beans. We ride on to New Rockford ND and pull into the Bison Lodge where we will stay the rest of the trip. We call Dave and he says have permission to hunt the field as long as we do not mess up any of the crops.

Day 3. This is the opening day of non-resident season in North Dakota. We head out early to “Nates Place.” We get out there and the ducks are here and there but not a whole lot of ducks. We are beginning to get concerned, but my dad says it should be a good hunt as when we came by yesterday it was later in the day. We get set up in the grass, decoys set, guns loaded. It was a little past legal and the ducks start flying like there is no tomorrow. My dad limits out in about 20 minutes. I have about 2 ducks and it started to slow down. the rest of the hunt was pretty good. I had fives ducks and the limit is 6. Mr. Dewayne and I moved down the bank as the birds started to fly a different path later in the morning. The birds would fly to us then move off. Finally we saw a pintail as it was making a line for us. I raised up and pulled the trigger. It was the first time I had ever limited out. I also shot my first gadwall, and blue wing teal that day. We spend the rest of the day scouting for the trip. We settle on a place my dad has hunted before and called the Juanita Spoonie Hole.

Day 4. We wake up and start driving to the Juanita Spoonie Hole. We get there and not much happens – most everyone has one bird. My dad and I move to a different hole that is not far away on the same block of land. Birds are constantly flying over us just too high. We try to move to where the birds are flying but the water is too deep and we have to keep looking for a spot until we find one where the water isn’t as deep. We move into the water and I shoot 3 more birds. I ended up with 4 ducks this day. We plan on trying to find a spot for an afternoon hunt but nothing ever comes up.

Day 5. This is the last day we get to hunt on this trip. We go back to “Nates Place” just in a different spot. We did not see many birds at all that day much less shoot many. One hen pintail came flying in and I raised up and shot it. The bird comes down 4 feet behind me. Other than that bird I didn’t shoot another bird. So we go back to the Bison lodge and pack up for our flying home in the morning. It was a great trip and some really neat land to see. I really enjoyed seeing another part of the country.

Nate Faulkner

Editor’s note: Great job, Nate! You’re welcome in my blind any time. Please look for a short video chronicling the father-son hunt very soon on http://www.AHuntersTales.com

Taking Wildlife Art to New Levels

Have you ever been turned down by a taxidermist? I have. And three duck mounts and several hours of trading hunting stories later, I know why.

Mark Benfield is the best waterfowl taxidermist I’ve ever come across. It’s that simple.

A hunting buddy who felt the same way about his work recommended Benfield, who owns and operates Mark’s Waterfowl Creations in Lincolnton, NC, to me several years ago. So imagine how excited I was to take my first bull canvasback to him after it made the delicate journey from North Dakota. Imagine my surprise when Benfield spent less than a minute looking at the duck before telling me he wouldn’t be able to mount it.

The most recent additions to my game wall - widgeon and redhead mounted by Mark.

“I’m sorry?” I said.

“I could mount that bird and you’re never going to like it,” Benfield said that day. “The head color is not in full plume and I’m not going to mount something that you have to spend the rest of your life wishing you wouldn’t have gotten it mounted.”

Benfield has a scoring system for birds he takes in and if it doesn’t fall on the right end of his spectrum for mounting, he will tell his customers not to mount the bird. It’s not that Benfield is arrogant or overworked that he has to turn it away. He doesn’t want his customers to be unhappy.

Imagine how hard I worked to shoot a duck that would meet his expectations for mounting. The following season, Sage’s first as my hunting buddy, saw us shoot two beautiful drake woodies that I knew had to meet his threshold. And both did so I chose to mount the first duck Sage ever retrieved. Lucky for me, it turned out to be one of the most beautiful mounts, of any species, I’ve ever seen.

The most beautiful mount I've ever seen. I am biased!

And on a coastal trip in North Carolina last year, I was fortunate to shoot a drake redhead and drake widgeon that made their way to Mark’s taxidermy shop. And instead of missing the scale, the widgeon actually topped Mark’s scoring system – a feat that seemed to impress even the best bird taxidermist this blogger has ever seen. I opted to get the ducks mounted in a dead mount against an old barn-board frame I built using wood my buddy Kenneth and I took off an old barn a few years back. I couldn’t be happier with his work on those birds as well.

I’m not the only one who has noted Mark’s work, evidenced by his 2007 National Championship in waterfowl and Blue Ribbon Awards in both the World and State taxidermy competitions.

For you out-of-state hunters, I promise the shipping prices to get Mark a bird for consideration would pay off when any mount is completed. He is truly that good.

Tales … I need to send congratulations to my fellow outdoors blogger, Nick Pinizzotto, who connected on a sharp looking 10-point on Pennsylvania’s archery opener earlier this month. Nick, who blogs at www.whitetailwriter.com/rublines/, is done bowhunting until we meet up with him at Riverview Outfitters in Hancock County, Ill., in four weeks. He reports that he’s got plenty of videographer duties remaining for his fellow PA buddies.

The eyes can tell a story …

As my buddy John tells it, my eyes got real big!

We were hunting Pamlico Sound and were probably getting much closer to picking up our decoys than we were to the start of our hunt.

As hunters do, we started to relax from the ever-ready stance and glance of searching the sky for birds headed our direction. The fog was starting to roll into the Sound and the morning’s rain seemed to provide its last spitter upon these early risers.

Sage and I were on the bow of John’s boat – making no added effort to conceal ourselves into the covered blind area. Our hunting spot that morning was some 20 yards to our left, but a lull in activity led to a chat with the fellas. My Benelli was leaning against the frame of the blind and the only thing being shot at the moment was bull.

Sage waits on ducks at the front of John's boat. I was standing next to her when the Redhead dropped from the sky.

I first caught movement when the bird was fully cupped and dropping like a 10 lb. weight over our decoys – a familiar site for anyone that regularly hunts divers. That’s when my eyes got real big! John, who had just cracked a cola and was as relaxed as the rest of us, knew there was a bird over the spread. My eyes said that loud and clear.

I yelled “Holy (somethingorother)” and threw up the Benelli as fast as my arms could. I snapped a shot off – not sure I was aiming in the right direction. The bird fell.

“That’s a beautiful redhead,” John shouted.

Sage had the bird in her mouth and was returning to the boat shortly thereafter.

Sage, retrieving the Redhead

The duck was one of two birds that will make its way on my game room wall from this trip. Also shot was the prettiest American Widgeon ever taken by your faithful blogger.

For some odd reason, I did not take a lot of photos of either bird, which is quite a bit out of my norm.

The said Redhead

I’m hoping to get at least one more duck hunt in this year to call it the 2009-2010 season. Because we did not get drawn for our Georgia hog hunt, it looks like the next time afield to chase wild game will be with the Spring Turkey season.