There are many signs that this has not been a very good duck season in much of the Illinois River Valley.
Warm weather. Grumbling duck hunters. And unexpected invites to hunt.
My latest came when Cammy Smith called asking if I had interest in hunting at Emiquon on Thursday. “We’re having trouble filling the spots,” she said.
No wonder. The ducks are not in the Illinois River Valley in any great abundance. Some folks are doing well. Some always do. But by and large, the last few days of this season do not look promising, what with warm weather, a lack of food and a lack of birds.
Thursday was just my latest example. After telling Cammy yes, the Farmer and I hunted 5S at Emiquon, which is located in the far, southwest corner of the lake. Given a strong southwest wind, we thought we might do well.
But leading up to the hunt, everyone used one word to describe hunting at Emiquon (and elsewhere). “Slow.” And this is at a site that has limited days for hunting.
Turns out they were correct. While we managed one drake mallard (pictured above with my Lab Bridget) and one spoonbill, we saw very few ducks. Nowhere near the usual numbers I have come to expect at Emiquon. Driving around after the hunt showed even lower numbers than I had expected.
The highlight of the day was teaching the dog a new trick. She had never hunted with me at Emiquon before but learned quickly that muskrat huts are a wet dog’s best friend. At first she was reluctant to scramble up on top. By the end of the morning she was hopping up on them willingly.
That means next year, when the ducks are thick, she’ll be ready for Emiquon. So will I after this season.