Wednesday, November 23, 2011


"Happiness is time spent with a friend and looking forward to sharing time with them again."
Thomas Jefferson

I have been truly blessed throughout my life with close friends.  I receive phone calls or texts almost daily from a number of my high school friends. We are very involved in each other's families. We share the accomplishments and the travails of our lives and those of our children.

Many friendships have been formed through my hunting and fly fishing associations. From fellow fly fishing guides to cherished friendships with many of my clients, I appreciate them all.

This time of year is now twinged with sadness as well as great joy. The joy is the arrival of the waterfowl. The sadness is for the loss of my good friend Tom Harpstreith. From the middle of October to mid February, Tom and I spent almost every day together. It was never an issue that Tom was closer in age to my parents than to me. Our love of the outdoors and the anticipation of upcoming waterfowl seasons honed our friendship. Tom taught me everything I know about hunting Canada geese. One of his many "Tomisms" was "I have to hunt every day because every day is different."

Countless hours are spent preparing blinds and pits.  A thousand decoys have to be moved from storage to their respective locations. Furniture and heaters hauled to each spot and the salamanders, toads, snakes, frogs and spiders that have been inhabiting the pits all summer must be relocated or eradicated. Hours of cutting grass and tweaking the camo on the pits and blinds. Those hours turn into days of preparation. 

I could not do it without a group of my friends from Utah and Colorado.


Petey Peterson, Dexter, Eric Lobdell, Cass, Garrett Klein, May, Joe, NP Dave Kalinski (Off being Polish)

These friendships were born many years ago on the ski slopes of Park City. They were cemented by a love of waterfowling. Every November the crew makes the eight hour drive to Torrington to help with setup and then again in February to help take down the spreads and store them for the following season. When the guys heard that we had lost the river blind to the flood, they built a new one.  It is not easy to build a blind to Tom Harpstreith's standards, but they did it.

The highlight of the trip is having dinners with the Harpstreith family. Tom's wife, Lovie, has continued the tradition of hosting the Utah gang for dinner. Lovie is an amazing chef. She has attended numerous cooking schools in Europe. She learned her craft well! The downside is the dinners always occur the same week as Thanksgiving. If this continues, I may lose my position in the "Chippendale's Western Revue".

I don't think that the arrival of my friends from Utah and the arrival of the waterfowl is a coincidence.

Thank you Eric, Garrett, Dave and Petey.

Thank you Tom.  For everything. We miss you, my Friend.

Monday, November 21, 2011


I had the great pleasure of guiding the Staggs brothers the past three days.  They drove from Memphis, TN, to hunt the North Platte. Leonard runs a Tractor Supply store and his brother, Logan, is a Marine recruiter.

Logan first contacted me in July of this year.  He indicated they were interested in an October duck hunt. I told him we normally don't have mallards until the middle of November.  Logan told me he had contacted several other guide services and no one mentioned we don't have ducks in October.  I didn't need to ask.  We communicated several more times by email during the fall and we settled on Nov 17, 18 and 19.  

When they arrived in Torrington,  I went to the Holiday Inn to meet them. I have never had hunters who were more excited to hunt than the Staggs brothers. Logan told me that he had done tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. All the time there he dreamed of hunting the river he had heard so much about. 

He and his brother, Leonard, had been on several guided waterfowl hunting trips before that were less than successful.  Needless to say they had high hopes but were understandably cautious. 

My Dad, Michael, joined us on the first morning. When we had finished setting the decoys, I took the 4-wheeler back to our parking area as the brothers were behind the blind organizing their gear.  Most of you know that Michael is quite good with his Carlson duck call.  It was about five minutes before shooting time when the first flock of mallards came up the river. Dad gave them a high ball and they broke down immediately. He continued to coax the flock of 100 mallards with distant greeting calls, lonesome hen and low end closing calls. The flock circled downwind and dropped over the trees and into the decoys. Most of them were inside twenty yards.  Ducks don't decoy like that in Fallujah.

The Platte River specialist, Dani, was the lab on duty for the morning.  I will put her up against any dog on the North Platte.  After thousands of retrieves on this river she knows where the ducks and geese are going to go before they do. We had a wing tipped drake heading downstream. As Dani got close to the bird, he began to run/fly/swim as fast as he could. Just like an LA auto chase, the chase always ends the same way. After a 300 yard run downstream, the drake made a fatal error of heading to the bank. Never ever ever leave your vehicle and run! Dani and the drake disappeared into a log pile. A few minutes later, Officer Danielle was coming across the sand bar with the duck in handcuffs.

The day continued pretty much the same way. A limit of mallards and one Canada goose. The second day was a carbon copy of the first. Limit and a goose. I did manage to trick a flock of 500 into the decoys.  200 landed in the decoys, There wasn't room for the remainder. We did not shoot. I don't need to educate that many at one time.  Pretty sure the brothers had ever witnessed that!

Saturday, the third day, dawned with a couple inches of snow on the ground. I love snow and mallards. When snow is on the ground mallards have the need to feed. The sky this morning looked like the Santa Monica Freeway at rush hour. Ducks were moving in every direction. The feeding chuckle sounded like an OWS chant minus the drum circle.  By 8:00, ten fat greenheads were doing the bicycle in the decoys. Another great day on the North Platte.
                            Leonard and Logan Staggs with North Platte Mallards

The Staggs brothers were on the road back to TN by 9:00. Safe travels and hope to see you again.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Last night I had the pleasure of talking to two of my very best  friends Kaylee and Cassidy.  They live in Fairbury, NE. They have the nicest mommy and daddy. I am blessed to have all of  them as friends.  I stay with them on their farm during the snow goose season.  Kaylee and Cassidy are also good friends with my son Brayden. When Brayden visits the farm they show him the chickens, goats and cattle. Several times they have had to put new born calves in the bathtub to get them warm. Their mommy is not happy when that happens.

I can't wait to see you girls in February.


I am back in the high life again, all the doors I closed one time will open up again, I'll be back in the high life again.

It is true that all my ducks left last Sunday.  It was so bad I elected to cancel a group scheduled to hunt today.  It was a new group and I didn't want them to have a bad hunt. Turns out I shouldn't have called them off. They can leave over night and they can show up over night. I went down to the river this morning and it was non-stop mallards up and down the river. The first wave of Canada geese also arrived. This morning the lake held big and little Canadas along with many mallards and wigeon.  Snow geese have been migrating all day on their way to warmer climes.

I hear you Steve buddy!


On a recent episode of The Duck Commander, the crew had a tornado go through their duck woods. It uprooted hundreds of trees, but the collateral damage was far worse.  It took all the ducks.

We shot limits of mallards every day for the past ten days. After great hunts on the river on Friday and an equally great hunt on the lake on Saturday, we experienced 50 mph winds Saturday night and all day Sunday and Monday. At 5:00 am on Sunday morning as we headed east on Hwy 26 towards Morrill  it appeared as if we were herding tumble weeds. I am sure that I have never witnessed this many tumble weeds in such a mass migration.

The west wind not only caused the tumble weeds to migrate, it had the same effect on the wasn't that it took some of the ducks, it took them all. We never fired a shot on Sunday. The Kiowa refuge is six miles down river from our lease. The refuge that had been black with ducks for the past two weeks, was now empty. They were gone. Just like the Commander's ducks, the Wyoming tornado took JJ's.

The good news is that today, Tuesday, Kiowa was holding quite a few mallards.  Looks like the game might be back on.


Saturday, November 12, 2011


                                             JJ and Jeff Meyer
Hunted the lake yesterday and again this morning.  Limits of mallards both days along with two bonus wigeon today. We didn't see as many mallards today as yesterday but we had a better wind direction today.

Today we worked a couple of nice bunches of 75 to 100.  Jeff Meyer was having trouble with his 12 gauge  this morning.  The trigger would not reset after firing the first shot. He was so frustrated that he walked back to the truck to get his 20 gauge. (Tom Harpstreith is smiling)  He was concerned that he didn't have enough firepower.

His first shot at 20 yards was merely a tactic to allow the birds to get to 50 yards.  The strategy worked perfectly as he crumpled a drake.  So much for not enough firepower.

The next flock was our bunch of 100.  The majority of the birds were on Jeff's side of the pit.  The lead birds were at 15 yards and 10 feet off the water.  Jeff's first shot stoned a drake. Jeff's second shot bagged another drake. His third shot dropped two drakes!  That's right, three shots four drakes.  Knapp you got nothing on the Meyer. Jeff shoots almost as well as Todd Norsten.

We are heading back to the river tomorrow.  Will let you know how we do.


Friday, November 11, 2011


                                            (click on photos to enlarge)
I am blessed in so many ways.  On Wednesday afternoon, I took my 4-year old son Brayden to the river blind. We spent as much time walking around on the sand bars as we did in the blind actually hunting.  We did manage to get a couple of fat greenheads so he was able to watch the mallards work the decoys. I think he liked it because he kept saying "Daddy, I love you!"

On Thursday morning I was blessed to have in the blind with me my Dad, Michael; one my great clients and friend, Jeff Meyer, owner of Pathfinder Ranch in Alcova, WY; and my friend Trent Tatum, co-owner of the North Platte Lodge in Alcova.  We decoyed many flocks of mallards and had our limit by 9:00 AM.

                                               Jeff Meyer and Sage
Needing just three more mallards for our limit, my Dad and I convinced a flock of 25 mallards to come and visit our spread.  They were hovering above the decoys at 15 yards.  I reminded everyone that we needed only three. The first volley rang out and two greenheads hit the water.  Needing one more, Trent focused on a drake that was trying to make his escape through the trees. Bad decision for duck; good decision for Trent.  Trent's yellow lab, Allie, went "into the woods" (Stephen Sondheim reference not intended) and returned with a "once in a lifetime duck"!

It was a magnificent drake mallard/pintail hybrid.  The beak was that of a pintail (sprig), head was a mallard on the sides but had the brown crown of a pintail. The neck was long like a pintail but it had the white ring of a mallard; however, the white extended down the throat for an inch. Wings had the green speculum of a pintail but the body shape was that of a mallard.  The tail had the triangle shape of a pintail but was colored like a drake mallard. It had the spike tail feather of a sprig but instead of coming out the rear of the tail it was located where a drake mallard would have his curl feathers. A magnificent bird. A trophy of a lifetime!
                                         Drake Mallard/Pintail Hybrid

I have been witness to many mallards being harvested over the years. I have seen only one other mallard/pintail hybrid.  My Dad has been hunting mallards for over 50 years. Trust me when I say he has been responsible for thousands of mallards taken over the years (If you have seen the number of duck bands on his call lanyard you know what I mean).  Trent's duck is the first hybrid drake he has ever seen.

                                         Trent Tatum and Allie  
 Thank you to Trent for these wonderful photographs.

I am truly blessed to share my passion for waterfowling with my dad, my son and good friends.

See you on the river.


Sunday, November 6, 2011


A big shout out to my brother Chad and all the folks who work with him at the National Weather Service. The forecast was for snow, low temps around 20 and strong WNW winds. Could you have a more perfect day for the first day on the river? I think not.

On the drive to the river, the stars were brightly shining; the temp was a balmy 31 degrees and the wind was light and variable.  Got to love those weather forecasters! Have to tell the story of how Chad's forecast saved countless lives in Tucson.

Chad's first assignment with the Weather Service was in Tucson. His primary duty was as the Chief Hydrologist for the area. Hydrologist in the desert? You get 5" of moisture a year! Give me a break. Often when they do get rain they do get flash floods. Chad issued a flash flood warning for an arroyo (I think that is a ditch) that winds through several housing developments. It is a playground for kids and dirt bike enthusiasts.  Everyone cleared the arroyo just before a four foot wall of water came racing down the valley.

We were all obviously very proud of him. He received many accolades from the residents of Tucson.  They even held a parade for they didn't but we were proud of him nonetheless. A few days later I asked him how he knew to issue the flash flood warning for that specific arroyo. Expecting some sort of complicated scientific explanation he said "I picked the boys up from soccer practice and on the way home there was water running across the road and I figured that when I get home I better issue a warning!" Gospel truth.

So back to the first day on the river. Saturday evening I drove down to the river. First thing I saw was 1500 mallards hitting a picked cornfield a mile down river from my blind.  I drove to the Kiowa Refuge just south of Morrill, NE, and it was covered in mallards. On Friday it held 200. They can and do show up overnight.

I love blue sky mallards. The sun illuminating the iridescent green heads of the drake mallards is one of nature's most exquisite sites.  And did we see green heads? The first two bunches of the day were each over 100 mallards. A hundred mallards at twenty yards is quite a sight. Taking only one fat greenhead from a bunch, my three gunners harvested their fifteen mallards by 9:30.

It was truly a magical first day.

   Jeff Meyer's Sage, the best Chessie I have ever hunted with.                                                

                           Forest Meyer, Josh Jamison, Sage, Jeff Meyer

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


They say (don't have a clue as to who they is) everyone has their fifteen minutes of fame. Alas, I fear that mine is going to extend far beyond the quarter hour. If you have the November-December issue of the Ducks Unlimited Magazine, I invite you to turn to page 69 (I know..I had no input whatsoever on page selection).  The photo was taken on my duck lease near Morrill, NE. The lab in the photo is the world's foremost North Platte River specialist, Dani.

Dani has retained the Canine Career Agency to represent her. The CCA represents Lassie 10, Benji (deceased) and the greatest one hit wonder in all dogdom, Hooch. She is developing a line of field wear that can be worn while hunting pheasants, Chukar and amazingly enough, Sage Grouse.  Her line of waterfowl vests and electronic accessories will be released in time for the spring snow goose season.

I am currently assessing offers from GQ, Just Beautiful Men and Commando Monthly. I have to be very careful with my image.  I don't want to end up like Snooki or Wink Martindale.  However, if you are hunting with me this year, I will have 8x10 glossies available. They are suitable for framing. I will also have the WyoBraska Waterfowl screensavers available on my website.

Enough about me. Lets talk about waterfowl.

The migration is very slow this year. The weather has been very warm in central Canada.  Reports are the migration is two weeks behind normal.  We had our first measurable snow last night.  The three to four inches  was gone by this afternoon. Temps were chilly today, high of 34. We are supposed to have a low of 10 in the morning.

My Dad and I were down to the river this afternoon. We had to cut a few trees that were blocking the road into the duck blind. We are going to place the blind in position tomorrow morning.  Right now, the water in the river may be the best we have ever had. However, a drop in water levels could change everything. Just going to play it by ear. Did see a few duck tracks on the bars near the blind location.

There was a fair number of mallards, pintails, gadwall and teal on the lake today. About 40 little Canadas were on the lake behind the pit. We are seeing the first indications of a migration.  I have learned that they can show up overnight.  Hoping that it is tonight!

I have the first hunters this weekend. Will let you know how we do.

Here are a few photos from the river blind setup and a portfolio pic!

                                      Scientific Waterfowling? I think not!
                         Another autumn, another blind placement consultation
                                       Clearing limbs for visibility
                           Aftermath of the flood - ideal duck water